The University of Hawaiʻi sent all UH employees an email on January 9 regarding using university resources for campaign activities.
FAQ about campaign activities using university resources
The 2020 election season is already underway. The University of Hawaiʻi encourages participation in the democratic process and recognizes each individual’s right to support candidates for political office. The university, however, is an agency of the State of Hawaiʻi. Its resources, such as university buildings, grounds, facilities, equipment, supplies, its “name” and the official on-duty hours of its employees, need to be devoted to benefit the general public and carry out the university’s mission. These university resources must not be used to support any particular candidate pursuant to section 84-13(3), Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes (HRS).
Often, determining whether the university resources are used for public purposes as opposed to private and personal purposes require a careful and thoughtful balance of multiple considerations in light of the specific facts of each circumstance. The following FAQ is meant to remind us all of the general limitations on the use of public resources for private purposes. Specific questions will need to be addressed by the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission, the organization that is ultimately responsible for implementing the State Ethics Code.
Who is a candidate?
A “candidate,” as defined in section 11-302, HRS, means an individual who seeks nomination for election to a public office and files nomination papers for an office with the county clerk’s office or with the chief election officer’s office, whichever is applicable.
For UH employees, what kinds of campaign activities are prohibited?
Employees shall not:
- use state time to engage or conduct political campaign activities.
- use state equipment, including university phone or electronic mail systems, or state supplies for political campaign purposes.
- use state facilities or grounds for political campaign activities.
As a UH employee, can I endorse a candidate?
The State Ethics Code prohibits state employees from using their “official position” to coerce or solicit campaign contributions, provide campaign assistance or otherwise support a candidate. If a UH employee chooses to allow his or her image and name to be used to endorse a candidate, please make as clear as possible that the endorsement is made by the individual acting in a personal and private capacity, as a public citizen and/or constituent, and not as an employee of the university. While individuals have the freedom to endorse a candidate of their choosing as a citizen, using your job title with the university may infer that your endorsement is also that of the university, which would be incorrect and an ethics violation. The University of Hawaiʻi does not endorse candidates.
Are candidates allowed to use UH facilities for campaign purposes?
While we encourage the use of UH facilities for community outreach, town hall meetings and other similar events, please be aware that campaign activity is prohibited on state premises for a “candidate” as defined in section 11-302, HRS, and includes, but is not limited to, using UH premises (such as university conference rooms, courtyards, offices, etc.) for “walk-throughs,” posting campaign signs or other campaign activities or meetings, or solicitation. Also, any overt activities or statements that could be construed as an endorsement for a candidate running for public office are prohibited on UH premises.
Candidates, like members of the public, may be able to rent certain UH facilities that are available to the public, but they will be required to meet all attendant requirements, such as proof of insurance, indemnification, etc.
For more information, please see links below: