Elon University encourages civic engagement and active participation in the process of democracy, which are central to the mission of preparing graduates who are “global citizens and informed leaders motivated by a concern for the common good.” We emphasize our responsibility to live in community, acknowledging our interdependency with others. We believe that civic engagement necessitates political involvement and active participation in democratic decision-making.
While affirming this commitment to political engagement, Elon is a private non-profit tax-exempt educational institution under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code which prohibits its “participation in, or intervention in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaigns on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” The following guidelines were developed to ensure an environment for robust political engagement that also meets applicable legal requirements. Elon University retains the right to refuse or limit access to campus facilities or to suspend or cancel any event that does not meet with these guidelines.
All political activities must be approved and conducted in a manner consistent with these guidelines and no University facilities or resources may be used for political activities or purposes, except as approved through these guidelines. “Political activities” means political campaign activities and events, including but not limited to any political candidate appearances on campus such as forums, debates, speeches, and campaign rallies, and voter registration and education activities. The University has final discretion in decisions regarding the sponsorship of political activities and these decisions are made by a Political Activities Working Group chaired by the Executive Vice President / Provost and comprised of appropriate University officials appointed by the President.
Guidelines for Political Candidate Appearances or Campaign Events
Elon University does not provide institutional support or endorsement of individual candidates for political office. However, recognized student organizations, the Council on Civic Engagement, and other approved groups may use available University space for political candidate appearances, or for persons officially recognized by the party and campaign in lieu of a political candidate, consistent with the following guidelines:
- All political events sponsored on campus must be registered and approved in advance through the Phoenix Connect Event Registration process. The University will assign an appropriate venue to approved events on the basis of operational considerations such as academic needs and schedules, and safety and potential for disruption for students or other University activities.
- Events must be held in a time, place, and manner which reduces disruption to classes or other activities on campus.
- Events will be open to all members of the University community. Tickets, if they are used, must be free and must be made available to students, faculty and staff. Tickets designated for members of the University community may not be distributed in a manner that ensures that attendees representing a particular point of view will be over-represented at the event.
- Campus Safety and Police will be consulted to determine the need for security at events. The cost for any additional security will be charged to the sponsoring organization. For some events, such as for a major campaign candidate, the candidate may be required to provide and pay for security for the event. All non-University security personnel must operate in a coordinated manner with Elon University’s Campus Safety and Police.
- Prior to the event, the event organizers and University administration will determine whether signs will be allowed. Whatever the decision, it will apply to all members of the audience, no matter their views.
- No political fundraising will be permitted.
- Consistent with the Internal Revenue Code, University communications about the event, including campaign literature, announcements, or solicitations, and the introduction of the speaker at the event must include an explicit statement that Elon University does not support or oppose any particular candidate for office, and no political fundraising is permitted at the event.
- Enforcement of University policies at events may be conducted only by designated officials of Elon University and/or authorized law enforcement officers.
- When a legally recognized candidate for an office is approved to speak at Elon, equal opportunities for all legally recognized candidates seeking the same office will be provided.
- Candidates may appear or speak at events in a non-candidate capacity but neither campaign activities nor mention of their candidacies may occur.
- Candidates may not campaign on campus except as part of officially approved appearances or events covered by these guidelines.
Guidelines for University-Sponsored Political Forums
- When several candidates for the same public office are invited to speak at a university-sponsored public forum or debate, in addition to the above, the following guidelines will apply:
- The forum or debate must be non-partisan and sponsored for the purpose of educating voters.
- All legally recognized candidates for a particular public office (or for the nomination of a particular party) must be invited. Candidates for the same public office will be given equal access and opportunity to speak.
- Questions for the candidates should be prepared and presented by an independent nonpartisan moderator or panel.
- Topics discussed by the candidates should cover a broad range of issues that the candidates would address if elected to the office sought and are of interest to the public
- Each candidate should be given an equal opportunity to present the candidate’s respective views on the issues discussed.
- A moderator’s comments on the questions should not imply approval or disapproval of the candidates.
- Candidates may not be asked to agree or disagree with positions, agendas, platforms, or statements of Elon University.
Guidelines for Voter Education or Voter Registration
The Council on Civic Engagement schedules robust voter education and voter registration activities for students and encourages student organizations and University departments to support these efforts. Any additional voter education or voter registration activities conducted by student organizations or University departments must be carried out in a non-partisan manner and may not be combined with any campaign activity. Voter registration activities to be held on campus from organizations outside of Elon University must be sponsored by a student organization or University department and be approved in advance by the University Political Activities Working Group.
Contact Information about Political Activities
For questions about sponsoring political activities, contact the Dean of Student Development.