With the national election less than a year away and campaigning underway, it is time for a reminder on the guidelines for political action at MIT.
MIT, as a tax-exempt institution, is barred by law from using its facilities, personnel or any of its resources in any "political campaign on behalf (or or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."
A rally on behalf of a candidate or a campaign appearance on campus must be sponsored by an MIT-affiliated organization which will then pay for the space used. Questions may be directed to Stephen D. Immerman, chair of the Facilities Use Committee and director of special services in the office of the senior vice president, at x3-9743.
An Institute office cannot be used as a return mailing address; similarly, the Institute's phone service or mail service (which includes electronic mail service) cannot be used for the solicitation of funds or for any other material in connection with a campaign for public office.
Below are the pertinent paragraphs (3.68 Political Action) from Policies and Procedures of MIT, which is available electronically on TechInfo as well as in each office.
3.68 POLITICAL ACTION
"The Institute encourages all students, faculty, staff and employees to exercise their rights and duties as citizens to participate as individuals in the electoral process. Federal and state laws, however, clearly distinguish between the political activities of individuals and those of tax-exempt institutions such as MIT. The Federal Internal Revenue Code limits a tax-exempt institution's engagement in "substantial efforts to influence legislation" and prohibits it from participation or intervention in any "political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."
"The following guidelines are responsive to these provisions of law and are intended to emphasize the role of the individual in the political process. They apply to all individuals associated with the Institute. The interpretation of these guidelines is the responsibility of the Provost, with advice from Institute counsel.
"a) The Institute may not intervene or participate in any campaign by supporting or opposing a candidate or by taking a position on an issue involved in the campaign for the purpose of assisting or opposing a candidate. In addition, no substantial part of the Institute's activities may consist of attempts to influence legislation.
"b) Sections 3.63 and 3.64 concerning the use of the Institute name and letterhead apply specifically to political activities (including lobbying efforts to influence legislation). The name of the Institute may not be used on material intended for political purposes, including the solicitation of funds, nor may individuals or organizations use an Institute office as a return mailing address or the Institute mail service for the solicitation of funds or for any other material in connection with a campaign for public office or an attempt to influence legislation. Similarly, if an Institute title is used in political correspondence or other political material, individuals should do so for purposes of identification only, and they should make it clear that they are expressing their views as private citizens.
"c) Institute facilities may be used without charge for on-campus activities concerned with politics and public affairs when the activities will not extend beyond the campus. When Institute meeting facilities are made available for meetings to organize support or opposition to a candidate for public office, or to influence legislation, payment for such use must normally be made from non-Institute funds."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 24, 1996.