Political Activity Rules
Rules on Campaign Activities for College Employees
Sept. 2, 2022
With a general election coming in November, the campaign season is officially under way, and this often leads to questions about how employees of public institutions like College of the Canyons can participate in political campaigns. The Public Information Office would like to provide this reminder of the laws regarding political and election activities.
The information provided in this memo and attached FAQ has been shared before, but many new employees have joined the college recently, and all of us can use a refresher on the rules. The following information is summarized from L.A. County Office of Education guidelines, the Santa Clarita Community College District (SCCCD) Board Policy Manual, and state Education Code, Sections 7050-7058.
The laws protect everyone’s First Amendment rights to vote their consciences, voice their opinions and participate in campaigns. However, school and college district trustees, officials and employees have restrictions and prohibitions that govern their involvement in political and election activities.
Public funds and resources CANNOT be used to support or oppose any candidate or ballot measure. This means:
1. Employees and others may NOT use district resources, which include facilities, equipment or supplies, to campaign for or against ballot measures or candidates, including any candidate for election to the governing board of the district.
This rule restricts production of campaign materials. For example:
- The Reprographics department cannot print campaign materials, even if the district is reimbursed for the cost.
- District paper, printers, computers, duplicating equipment, etc., cannot be used for creating campaign materials or advocating for candidates in any way.
- District funds cannot be used to produce materials off campus either, and district time cannot be used.
This rule also restricts distribution of campaign messages. For example:
- The district’s telephones, computers, laptops, tablets, e-mail and Wi-Fi system, and mailroom may NOT be used.
- Campaign materials may NOT be mailed from the college’s mailroom.
- In addition, district internal mailboxes may NOT be used to distribute campaign materials expressing viewpoints for or against ballot measures and candidates.
- Campaign materials cannot be directly slotted into these mailboxes by the district, by employees, or by others. However, because the internal mailboxes are also U.S. postal boxes, mail that arrives through the U.S. Postal Service, addressed to specific employees and with postage paid, CAN be slotted in the mailboxes.
2. Employees may NOT campaign for or against ballot measures or candidates during working hours.
- Faculty, staff and officials may voluntarily work for or against ballot measures and candidates while off campus and outside assigned/contractual working hours.
- While employees are working at home, no district equipment – including laptops, hot spots, tablets, printers – can be used for campaign activities (even if the activities occur outside working hours).
- No student-produced work created as part of a class assignment or using district equipment can be used to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure. This includes video messages, interviews, social media and graphic designs.
3. During NON-INSTRUCTIONAL TIME, employees MAY wear campaign buttons, T-shirts, hats, etc., that present viewpoints on particular candidates or ballot measures. None of these items may be purchased with district funds.
However, employees MAY NOT wear buttons or campaign clothing that presents viewpoints on particular candidates or ballot measures during instructional time, including in online or remote instructional settings. While on district time, employees may encourage people to vote – but may not encourage people to vote in any particular way, either for or against any ballot measure or candidate.
4. Faculty should be particularly careful not to place campaign posters, signs or materials in their classroom/student service settings (in-person or virtual) or on the class website. Employees may not respond to student questions by telling them how to vote, during class sessions and/or on district time. Course assignments or class projects cannot be used to support or oppose a ballot measure or a candidate.
5. Note that, at any time the board of trustees and Associated Student Government may pass resolutions and prepare and distribute materials regarding BALLOT MEASURES that AFFECT the district.
Thank you for your cooperation in adhering to these laws.
Every employee, faculty member, staff member, administrator, trustee and student has a constitutional right to participate in political activities, to support or oppose ballot measures, to have complete freedom as individuals to support specific candidates of their choice, and to vote as they please. College of the Canyons encourages participation in the political process and urges everyone eligible to register and vote. However, there are some fairly complex rules about what we can and cannot do, in our relationship to the district and the college.
The district/college and all employees (IN THEIR CAPACITY AS EMPLOYEES) are prohibited from attempting to influence, directly or indirectly, how any particular person votes. The district/college must be completely neutral, and its employees when on district time or performing district duties, must remain neutral as well. It is important that no employee or student feels coerced to campaign for a certain person or measure, or to vote in a certain way.
Some of the campaign rules are difficult to interpret and it is not always easy to determine whether an activity is OK or not. There are grey areas. If you find yourself uncomfortable with an activity, it’s better to come down on the safe side and not do something that might create a problem for a candidate or a measure you support, or for you. Don’t just try to meet the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is to have a fair election with no taxpayer district funds or resources used to benefit any candidate or ballot proposal.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN PRACTICAL TERMS?
Everyone can campaign, but they must do so on their own time outside of their contractual responsibilities, and may NOT use college resources (phones, paper, ink cartridges, copiers, laptops, tablets, computers, email and Wi-Fi system, website, mailboxes, offices, classrooms or other facilities, etc.). Using district equipment for campaign activities while working from home or remotely is not permitted.
Yes, if you take vacation, dock or other leave, if you are NOT on district time (before or after your work day, or during a break) and do NOT USE a college phone or any college resources, including a college-issued computer, hot spot, printer, fax machine, Wi-FI network or website. It is best for you to be off campus, but if that’s not possible, you can leave your office or classroom, go outside, during your lunch break or your other regularly scheduled break time. You may make calls from your personal phone during non-work time.
Yes, with some restrictions.
- Students can wear clothing with campaign messages at any time.
- Employees can wear them on campus, but not in instructional or support service spaces, and faculty especially cannot wear them in classrooms or when teaching online. The issue is that faculty members have undue influence over students. If faculty members wear campaign items while teaching, students may feel pressured to support that candidate or measure. Also, while teaching, faculty represent the college, and wearing campaign items during that time makes it appear the district/college is supporting what a faculty members is actually supporting as an individual.
It depends. Posting flyers and posters must conform to district policies on posting, which requires approval by the Office of Campus Life. But in addition, be aware that there are special rules for political campaign posters. You can put a poster or sign in your office, as long as it does NOT point out a window into common areas (where it could be interpreted as the viewpoint of the college/district), and as long as it does not point out into classrooms, where it would influence students. In a Zoom/online environment, no signs, posters, or buttons can be visible while interacting with students. If a poster or sign is facing only into your office, it is OK. In most cases posting flyers on walls uses college/district resources. If there are some specific “student- owned” bulletin boards that are dedicated to allowing political campaign posters, then all viewpoints must be given the same amount of access and space on the bulletin boards.
Yes, informational flyers and posters may be posted on campus, provided they conform to the district’s policies on posting, which requires approval by the Office of Campus Life.
Handing out flyers is a protected form of expression; however, the college has time, place and manner rules.
- Outsiders who want to pass out flyers must register with the Office of Campus Life.
- The flyers must clearly show they are not endorsed by the college/district.
- The people passing them out CANNOT impede the normal operations of the college.
- The flyers CANNOT be distributed in classrooms or during instructional activities.
- The flyers CANNOT be placed in district mailboxes.
- Flyers CAN be sent to individuals at the college using the normal U.S. Post Office from off campus.
- Flyers CANNOT be printed on district equipment.
- Campaign posters and signs CANNOT be posted on the stadium (not even temporary signs), because it is a district resource and because it is instructional space for P.E. classes. Note: Flyers CAN be handed out in the stadium during athletic events because the games are public events.
No. The photos are considered district property since the copyright (or license) belongs to the district.
It depends. If the college employee – such as a coach, sports information officer, college photographer, etc. – is working during the event, the answer is NO.
It is OK if the employee is attending the event for pleasure and is not working or on district time.
It depends. In general, this could be construed as pressuring students, so it must be done very neutrally.
- If an instructor makes students aware of volunteer opportunities, and NONE of the volunteer work is arranged or takes place during classes or in any instructional spaces, it is OK as long as it is totally clear that the volunteer work is not required, is completely voluntary, there is no pressure, and there is no impact on students’ grades, etc.
- It is critical that students do NOT perceive that they were coerced into volunteering for any political campaign.
Yes, under certain conditions.
- The activities should be related in some way to the curriculum. For example, extra credit could be given to students in a political science class or a service-learning program for working on a political campaign.
- However, it is necessary to make it completely clear that the college is neutral.
- There can be ABSOLUTELY NO DIRECTION given to the students on which side of a campaign to support with their volunteer work to get extra credit. And this cannot be the only way they can earn extra credit.
- No student work assigned as part of a class assignment can be used to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure campaign.
Yes, definitely, but there still are rules. Unions cannot use district resources to campaign, just as individuals cannot. However, they can endorse candidates and measures, and they can conduct campaign activities as long as they don’t use any district resources or do so on time paid for by the district.
Yes, but NOT in their official capacity. All employees must make very clear that any endorsement they make is their own, that they are acting as individuals and not in their capacity as representatives of the college/district.
No. The college’s letterhead, logos, seals, etc., cannot be used on any campaign or endorsement material, as it would imply the district/college is endorsing. Remember that the district/college must remain neutral.
Yes, employees can make personal donations.
Do not forward the messages, and do not print them at the college or on any district printer if you are working from home. We have little or no control over what comes in to our email inboxes, and sometimes it is very objectionable. Just put it in your computer’s trash. Be sure that if you wish to participate in campaign activities, you do that from your own personal computer, at home or somewhere not on campus. And use your own Internet Service Provider, not the district’s email service. Ask campaign committees to use your personal, off-campus, non-district email address.
Yes, employees and students can put bumper stickers on their cars.
The district prohibits any kind of flyer or advertisement being placed on the outside of cars (such as on the doors and windshields) in parking lots because of the litter problem that creates.
The Civic Center Act governs the use and rental of college facilities by off-campus users. Rental fees are determined by type of user and the intended purpose of an event and waives rental fees for certain groups.
The Civic Center Act permits other public agencies to use college facilities at no charge. So, an elected officeholder may hold an event on campus that is a function of their office. For example, an officeholder wishing to host an information session or townhall meeting can use campus facilities to do so and the college can waive the facilities rental fee.
However, officeholders or candidates wishing to use college facilities for campaign-related events must pay to rent the facility. For example, if a candidate wished to hold an event on campus to announce their candidacy, they would be required to rent the specific room or location for that event.