Political Campaign-Related Activities

The University encourages freedom of expression. Political activities that do not reasonably imply University involvement or identification may be undertaken so long as regular University procedures are followed for use of facilities. Please consult University Policy 02‑03‑09, Participation in Political Campaigns, and University Procedure 04-01-01, Extracurricular Use of University Facilities. Please see also the Q&A below regarding the permissibility of certain political campaign-related activities on campus. 

The Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt, non‑profit 501(c)(3) organizations, such as the University of Pittsburgh, from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office.

This prohibition for the University extends to elections at all levels—federal, state and local. Violation of this prohibition may result in revocation of the University’s tax-exempt status, and the imposition of certain penalties and taxes on the University, its trustees, and its administrators who approve such participation. For these reasons, University resources may not be used for partisan political activities. 

Additionally, the above-mentioned legal restrictions on the use of University resources do not prohibit any individual in the University community from expressing his or her personal political views.

Students, faculty, and staff may express their political beliefs and are free to join others in support of candidates for office or in furtherance of political causes. University employees who take political positions and engage in political activities, whether individually or on behalf of groups with which they are associated, must not appear to be speaking or acting on behalf of the University.

If necessary to avoid any such appearance, University employees are expected to clearly indicate, in writing (as appropriate) and by their conduct, that their positions are not those of the University, and that their activities are not taken in an official capacity on behalf of the University. There is no restriction on discussion of political issues or teaching of political process.  Academic endeavors that address public policy issues are in no way prohibited or constrained. University employees working with Registered Student Organizations should also be familiar with the Student Affairs Q&A regarding political activity on campus. 

If you have questions regarding political activities on campus please contact the Office of General Counsel at 412-624-4747 or Governmental Relations at 412-624-2901. We will be glad to speak with you to answer any questions you may have or address your concerns.

Q&A for Political Campaign Activity on Campus

What type of political activities is the University prohibited from engaging in?

Federal and state laws prohibit the University from:

  • Endorsing candidates;
  • Making financial contributions to candidates or political action committees (PACs);
  • Participating in political fundraising;
  • Distributing statements in support of or in opposition to any candidate; or
  • Rating candidates based on certain standards and publishing such ratings

What type of political activities is the University permitted to engage in?

Provided that the activities are carried out in a non-partisan and unbiased manner, the University is permitted to:

  • Sponsor voter-education events such as candidate debates and forums; and
  • Encourage participation in the electoral process through voter-registration and get-out-the-vote drives.

University funds may not be used to pay honoraria, transportation, or any other expenses for speaking engagements involving candidates for political office.

What are the restrictions on use of University buildings and resources for political activities?

University buildings may be used for certain political activities, but those activities must be conducted in accordance with University Policy 02‑03‑09, Participation in Political Campaigns, and University Procedure 04-01-01, Extracurricular Use of University Facilities. The University name and seal may not be used in any partisan political activity. Additionally, University letterhead, envelopes, e-mail accounts, telephone lines, and voice-mail systems may not be used for partisan political activity.

Are there any restrictions on individual University employees' participation in political campaigns?

The University values the expression and exchange of ideas and encourages its employees to exercise their rights and privileges as individuals by participating fully in the political process. Individuals are free to become involved in the election process as they choose, in a manner that does not evidence or imply University involvement. University employees who take political positions and engage in political activities, whether individually or on behalf of groups with which they are associated, must not appear to be speaking or acting on behalf of the University. If necessary to avoid any such appearance, University employees are expected to clearly indicate, in writing (as appropriate) and by their conduct, that their positions are not those of the University, and that their activities are not taken in an official capacity on behalf of the University.