Author Archives: mseelingerjr

Campus Y Facebook Page Also Not in Compliance With the Law

To be honest, this was the aspect of this advertising campaign that was the most interesting. The issue of the website was fairly cut and dry, but I was kind of curious to see how the university views Facebook pages. I received this email from UNC’s General Counsel:

Dear Mr. Seelinger,

I am writing in reference to your inquiry regarding the reference to Amendment One on the Campus Y’s Facebook page.

Although the student committees in the Campus Y have a long-standing history of taking a stance on social justice issues, state law prohibits them from using University equipment, resources or services, such as computer networks or websites, to promote support for or to oppose an issue in an election.  The Campus Y committees may, however, encourage early voting.  I am working with the staff in the Campus Y to revise the messaging in the Facebook header to better reflect the applicable law and the importance of early voting.

I think the issue of interest here is the “authority and prestige” argument presented in my first post. There are many forms by which a university unit may communicate: email, websites, fliers, etc. Facebook is simply another medium.

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Looks Like Campus Y Was Breaking the Law

After I sent an inquiry (yesterday) over to UNC’s legal team regarding recent actions by the Campus Y, the Y’s website appears to have undergone a few cosmetic changes. Most notably, any reference to Amendment 1 has been scrubbed from the site. I’m still waiting on an official response from UNC’s General Counsel, but it looks like I knew what I was talking about after all. Anyone who accused me of being an awful human being/bigot/homophobe/liar for raising this issue can feel free to post an apology below.

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Evidence Increasingly Suggests Campus Y Breaking the Law

The Campus Y was kind enough to post a response to my last post (also take a look at this) via Facebook. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve posted it below:

Darling Marc and CR Daily,

In response to your article (ow.ly/axr7m), we would like to share the following with you….

a) the Y is a student organization and has a budget (which helps fund our website) independent of university funding;

b) We never knew the Y’s Facebook page was owned by the state of North Carolina

c) we are the CENTER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE; OF COURSE WE OPPOSE THE AMENDMENT!

#sorryweareREALLYnotsorry

WITH LOVE,

Jagir Patel and Mackenzie Thomas

Co-Presidents of the Campus Y who are STRONGLY AGAINST AMENDMENT ONE.

So, let’s address these points one by one, shall we?

A) ” the Y is a student organization and has a budget (which helps fund our website) independent of university funding”

Interesting claim, considering that the Y also has several paid employees of the University running the place. I’ve compiled a list of the relevant persons and their respective university-paid salaries below (all data taken from the University of North Carolina Salary Database):

1. Richard Harrill, Director: $61,000

2. Lucy Lewis, Assistant Director and Director of the Bonnor Leader Program: $46,886 (plus a $2344 non-state salary)

There are other university employees who work at the Y, but these two are the two that the University General Administration classifies as receiving their salaries from the Campus Y Department (though, I’m reliably told that the better word to use is “Division”). If the UNC GA classifies the Y as a division, that’s good enough for me.

B) “We never knew the Y’s Facebook page was owned by the state of North Carolina”

Well, you might consider reading the UNC Policy Manual, particularly Policy 105. The relevant part is, “Political Activity: Political activity by University employees is regulated by Federal and State law and University policy. No employee may use University funds, vehicles, equipment, supplies, or other resources in connection with partisan political activities. This includes the use of University electronic resources” Note that this also calls into question their use of the university website.

C) “we are the CENTER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE; OF COURSE WE OPPOSE THE AMENDMENT!”

Right.

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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.

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Amendment One Coverage Update

By my count, the DTH’s coverage of Amendment One now tilts 31-2. They ran a few more anti-amendment pieces this week, which you can find below.

28

29

30

31

Since the DTH has apparently abandoned any pretense of a fair discussion of the matter, it has fallen to more responsible parties to pick up the slack. To that end, I’ve reproduced (below) a letter to the editor from a former CR staffer that the DTH has refused to publish.

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To the Editor,

In Thursday’s Quick Hits, the Daily Tar Heel claimed that “there is nothing conservative about Amendment One” and “If you don’t want the government involved in your life, then you shouldn’t vote for an amendment that would infringe on citizens’ liberty.”

I believe the editorial staff have made the common error of confusing conservatism with libertarianism. Conservatism is not an ideological drive towards a minarchist state with maximum freedoms and minimum government. Rather, conservatism seeks to create a ‘right-ordering’ of society based on principles of truth, natural law and basic human rights to life, liberty and property. As William F. Buckley put it, “Conservatism aims to maintain in working order the loyalties of the community to perceived truths and also to those truths which in their judgment have earned universal recognition.”

This does not mean eliminating as much government as possible, but instead ordering government to best maintain society. Edmund Burke once wrote that “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without…Men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” Conservatives recognize that liberty requires restraint, preferably from a person’s own conscience. In some cases such as the civil law of marriage, it is necessary for the government to restrain certain passions. Therefore, many conservatives support Amendment One.

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