Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Aug. 12, 2015
Board of Governors passes partisan political activities policy
New policy preserves campus neutrality and open discourse during election
With the next federal election scheduled for Oct. 19, political parties and volunteers are ramping up efforts — and the University of Calgary campus community will play a role in the political discourse as always. Open and free discussion and debate of political issues are central tenets of the university, and the campus will likely host its share of debates, town halls and other events throughout the coming months.
However, the university is mandated to maintain a position of political neutrality at an institutional level. To ensure that the campus remains both an open forum for political conversation and that the university remains in compliance with both federal and provincial legislation, the university’s Board of Governors passed a new policy related to partisan political activities, effective July 1, 2015.
The Partisan Political Activities Policy (PPAP) provides clarity on the university’s legislated obligations under the Local Authorities Election Act (Alberta), the Election Act (Alberta), the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (Alberta), and the Canada Elections Act. In short, PPAP clarifies that students, faculty and staff should not use university resources for partisan political activities and are not permitted to leave the impression they represent the university if they choose to engage in partisan political activity.
“While the university has always worked to be in compliance with relevant legislation regarding neutrality, this policy codifies and defines what that neutrality looks like,” says John Alho, associate vice-president (government and community engagement). “Universities should be bedrocks for discussion and debate; PPAP is designed to allow genuine political engagement and the due exercise of academic freedom in the areas of political research and study.”
Policy prohibits use of university resources
In the context of PPAP, the use of university resources for partisan political activities by students, faculty or staff is prohibited. In the policy, “university resources” is defined as the tangible and intangible assets of the university. This includes funds, electronic communications, computers, cellular phones or other communication devices, mailing lists, stationery, and any other equipment or resource provided by the university.
University facilities can be used by members of the university community, provided they comply with the Use of University Facilities for Non-Academic Purposes Policy and the processes established by Meetings, Special Events & Conference Services at the university and provided that the university is not subsidizing the cost of this use.