Has a University Department Illegally Endorsed Amendment One?


Click each image for larger close-ups

It’s a well-known fact that the university and university departments aren’t supposed to take public stances on candidates for office or ballot initiatives. Indeed, NC General Statue 126-13 expressly forbids a state employee from “us[ing] the authority of his position, or utiliz[ing] State funds, supplies or vehicles to secure support for or oppose any candidate, party, or issue in an election involving candidates for office or party nominations, or affect the results thereof.” UNC policy also prohibits employees from using the “authority and prestige of position” to affect the outcome of partisan elections.

All of this casts the use of the Campus Y Facebook account and their official university website (photos above) in an interesting light. The Campus Y, you’ll recall, is “under the Carolina Union umbrella,” which is, in turn, a department under the Division of Student Affairs. So, this raises an interesting question: Is the Campus Y, an official department of the University, breaking the law by endorsing the opposition position on Amendment One? I think the answer is clearly “yes.” They are using the “authority and prestige” of their position to endorse a partisan issue. Additionally, the use of the official university website clearly violates the prohibition against using State funds and supplies in partisan elections.

Simply put, this action is in clear violation of the law. It is absolutely shameful that UNC feels that it can simply ignore the law in order to make a political point. Not only does this action reflect poorly on the University, it also reflects poorly on the anti-Amendment campaign, which apparently will resort to any means necessary to win.

Update: There seems to be some confusion about University-sponsored groups vs. University-recognized groups. According to the UNC Organization Manual, with regard to University-recognized groups, “The University does not sponsor or endorse activities associated with these groups.” So groups like the College Republicans, Young Democrats, Carolina Review, etc. can use the University’s name in their club names and advertising, but UNC does not actually endorse the actions of these groups.

The bit concerning University-sponsored groups is a bit more interesting. It reads,

“In certain limited situations a student group may act, in the performance of one of its essential core functions, as an agent of the University. A student group can act to carry out this essential University function only through authority expressly delegated to that group by either the Chancellor or the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. This recognition is given with the understanding that these groups have agreed to act responsibly as agents for the University. On an annual basis, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs identifies those student organizations that are recognized by the University as “University-sponsored” as these may change from year to year. Although a student group may function as an agent for the University in the performance of certain core functions, it may not be an agent for all purposes.”

The way I read it, unless otherwise specified, the Campus Y is an official extension of the University, which is why it is administered by the Division of Student Affairs. The Campus Y’s endorsement of the opposition position on Amendment 1 is concerning precisely because of this relationship with the University. The fact that they posted their support of this position on an official University website, at the very least, gives the impression that the University endorses this position. And that, dear friends, is very illegal.

Update II: I also highly recommend this link (from the Office of NC State’s General Counsel). It helps clarify some of the issues concerning university participation in elections.

About these ads

18 Comments

Filed under CRDaily

18 responses to “Has a University Department Illegally Endorsed Amendment One?

  1. Hi

    Centuries ago, the law stated that African Americans constituted 3/5 of a person, so simply because something is codified within a document doesn’t render it just. Oops, I invalidated your already unjustified argument. Stop being so detestable, Marc

    • So no law has authority? Interesting argument…

    • Slaveholders utilized the three-fifths clause to allow themselves more power in government, not simply to discriminate against slaves. They used the three-fifths clause to protect slaves and to eventually abolish the institution.

      For example, North Carolina’s original state constitution stated that a slave was a full person, not three-fifths of a person. This allowed the planters of Eastern North Carolina an extreme amount of power in the General Assembly because obviously slaves didn’t vote. The elected planters controlled the state legislature because a majority of those living in the western side of the state did not own slaves, thus the planters kept the institution of slavery alive and well.

      In response, the people of Western North Carolina called for a convention in which they rewrote the constitution using the same model of representation as the federal government – slaves counted as three-fifths of a person. This gave the westerners more power in the state legislature. A few years later, another convention was called. They rewrote the constitution again setting the white population as the only determinant in representation; completely taking away the power from the rich planter society of the east.

      In other words, you can’t use your argument because the three-fifths clause of the federal and state constitutions were used as a way to prevent the planter society from completely controlling the government and to eventually abolish slavery.

    • Trilby

      Has anyone asked the Campus Y about this? I don’t think they are interested in violating state law. They might either take more precautions, ask UNC’s legal counsel, or say what they already know about the legality of their political activities.

  2. cameronp1013

    The statute applies to state employees. You haven’t pointed to a regulation in which departments are forbidden from engaging in certain types of political activity. I believe it exists, but its not what you linked to. The Y is not a state employee.At best, you need to call out the specific employee at the Y (if there was one) who is abusing their authority to make this statement and substantiate that.

    But it doesn’t even seem to be that simple.

    “Otherwise use the authority of his position, or utilize State funds, supplies or vehicles to secure support for or oppose any candidate, party, or issue in an election involving candidates for office or party nominations, or affect the results thereof.”

    You appear to have ignored the rest of the clause following “issue.” Amendment One does not appear to me to be an issue involving candidates or party nominations. So you would need to establish that as well.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m not a lawyer. It’s just strange how you seem to think you are. Saying “clearly ‘yes’” seems a little hubristic.

    • mseelingerjr

      I did find this from NC State’s Office of General Counsel:

      “Consistent with these requirements, no University of North Carolina equipment or services (e.g., vehicles and other equipment, campus mail, computers and e-mail, postage, photocopying and fax, etc.) may be used for political campaign activities. This applies equally to University faculty, staff and students, and to individuals external to the University.”

      http://www.ncsu.edu/general_counsel/legal_topics/PoliticalActivities.php

      I think that the use of an official university website would fall under this interpretation.

      • cameronp1013

        It might. But it certainly isn’t clear. Since this blog is dedicated to “investigative journalism” it might behoove you to speak to the University Counsel first.

      • mseelingerjr

        I tend to disagree. Actually, I haven’t really seen any sort of defense put up by any of the offended parties here. I’m particularly interested to see how the use of an official university website for partisan political purposes could be defended.

  3. Sarah Chaisson

    Political campaign activities are permitted on the university campuses as long as they are sponsored or hosted by registered student organizations and all expenses related to the activity, if any, are borne by the candidate, political organizations or student organizations. University facilities may be rented for political events per campus policy on use of University premises and facilities. Such sponsored events may not be subsidized or supported by the University. No campus shall endorse any particular party or candidate. University officials should refrain from activities that may be perceived as university support of a political campaign. UNC Policy Manual, Chapter 300.5.5 prohibits Chancellors and principal staff from being actively involved by endorsing any candidate or becoming identified with any candidate. Anyone can support a candidate on university property that has been designated as a free speech zone.

    These guidelines apply explicitly to the use of public resources in support of or in opposition to political campaigns. They are not intended to limit discussion among faculty, administrators, and other State employees regarding political or campaign issues or candidates or to limit debates at which candidates have equal time.

    The Campus Y is a registered student organization and doesn’t speak for the university as a whole, nor do they claim to. Nowhere on the site does it say specific faculty members that oppose the amendment. The Campus Y isn’t using any university funds to add to the web/facebook page, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with a student organization endorsing or opposing a political issue.

  4. Sarah Chaisson

    I forgot quotations. The first two paragraphs are taken directly from the statute that you referred to in your article.

  5. Correct me if I'm wrong...

    I do believe both the Carolina Review and the College Republicans (in addition to the Democrats, Libertarians, etc) also fall “under the Carolina Union Umbrella”.

    You can ask those groups of people if they’ve ever endorsed anything, because I’d like to know and take action against them.

  6. Pingback: Re: Has a University Department Illegally Endorsed Amendment One? « CRDaily

  7. Sarah Chaisson

    The Campus Y has been taking a political stance on issues for over 150 years. I’m pretty sure that if it were illegal, it would have been disbanded a long time ago.

  8. Pingback: Evidence Increasingly Suggests Campus Y Breaking the Law « CRDaily

  9. Lorraine

    “’In certain limited situations a student group may act…as an agent of the University. A student group can act to carry out this essential University function only through authority expressly delegated to that group by either the Chancellor or the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Although a student group may function as an agent for the University in the performance of certain core functions, it may not be an agent for all purposes.’”

    “The way I read it, unless otherwise specified, the Campus Y is an official extension of the University….”

    I don’t understand how you get that reading from that paragraph. (I understand why you *want* to get that reading, but that’s a different story.) It pretty clearly states the opposite: the Campus Y is an official agent *only if* authority is so delegated by the relevant parties. “Expressly delegated” means “expressly delegated”–if you don’t have evidence of an express delegation, then I don’t think you have an argument.

  10. Jagir and Mackenzie

    We sent the e-mail below to Marc right after he published this post. We will be meeting with him tomorrow morning with the positive intentions of engaging in important dialogue.

    Regardless, we as Co-Presidents of the UNC Campus Y are steadfast in our endorsement AGAINST Amendment One. Furthermore, the Campus Y Cabinet (composed of all of our committees’ Co-Chairs and Executive Board) endorsed the Against Amendment One coalition as an official Campus Y Campaign earlier this semester. The Campus Y is indeed a part of the Division of Student Affairs; however, we are always more importantly a student organization and thus have the rights of any student organization on this campus. Our staff members have never endorsed for or against the amendment. Our Executive Board does not receive any funds from the university or state, and our website, though hosted by UNC, is not funded by the university or the state but rather by funds culminated by our Executive Board.

    If you have any comments or concerns about the Campus Y’s endorsement against Amendment One, we would be more than happy to address them. Do not hesitate to e-mail us at campusy.unc@gmail.com. We always strive to be transparent and accessible.

    With love,

    Jagir and Mackenzie

    “Dear Marc,

    We are extending to you the opportunity to meet with us as Co-Presidents of the UNC Campus Y. Based on your post on CR Daily, we find the notion that some students do not accurately understand the Y, its funding, and its legacy of social justice unfortunately holding true.

    If you would like to visit us during our office hours before 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday at the Y, we would love to host a friendly conversation with you! If you are unable to meet in the period, we are flexible with our schedules in the coming weeks prior to graduation.

    Again, we at the Campus Y find that everyone on campus has a home in this special building. Our intention is not to isolate individuals such as yourself from the Y; rather, we strive to assert our beliefs in a manner that always aligns with our mission:

    the pursuit of social justice through the cultivation of pluralism

    If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding anything Y-related in the future, please do e-mail the Director of Campus External Relations, Layla Quran, at campusy.external@gmail.com, or you can e-mail us at campusy.unc@gmail.com.

    We look forward to hearing your response,

    Jagir and Mackenzie”

  11. Pingback: Campus Y Facebook Page Also Not in Compliance With the Law « CRDaily

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s