Political conduct clarified for UI faculty

By Sarah Small

A reminder was included in the University ethics department’s newsletter issued last Thursday that clarified proper political involvement for University employees.

The ethics office was receiving questions regarding proper political conduct for University employees, said Tom Hardy, University spokesman.

According to the newsletter, employees cannot show political preference, specifically by attending rallies, soliciting votes or collecting contributions.

“It seems somebody got rather exuberant in their interpretation of ethics violations to the point where the First Amendment seems subordinated,” said Steven Helle, professor of journalism and First Amendment attorney, in an e-mail. Helle’s schedule Wednesday made it impossible to comment via other means.

“I remember the time Carole King played the piano on the Quad at a John Anderson rally and I was walking by and stopped to listen,” Helle said. “It boggles the mind that I could have been committing an ethics violation.”

Helle said the Supreme Court has allowed “more latitude” in public employers restricting speech of public employees in job related contexts.

“The University does not wish nor intend to stifle political expression by its employees,” Hardy said.