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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.