University Policies

File code: PRO.EMAIL.POL
Approval Date: 7/27/00
Approved By: President

Policy on E-Mail Usage and Political Activity

This policy is intended as a clarification of existing University policies and incorporates advice received from the University's legal counsel concerning the interpretation of legal rights of employees and students with respect to political elections and e-mail usage.

The University does not monitor personal electronic mail between individuals except as authorized by appropriate authorities. Messages posted to bulletin boards are not considered private electronic mail because they can be read by anyone with a link to the bulletin board. Senders of messages to bulletin boards need to be alert to the implications of possible misuse that can apply.

Individuals receiving direct, person-to-person electronic messages have a responsibility to tell the sender to discontinue unwanted communications. Complaints about threatening, obscene, or nuisance messages should be reported immediately to the Office of Public Safety. Such messages are in violation of state and federal laws. The University will also investigate complaints of alleged violation of policies regarding the use of electronic mail including inappropriate postings to bulletin boards.

The electronic bulletin board is not, nor should it be considered, a protected free-speech area. Campus bulletin board use must comply with University policies.

Western's Policy on Political Activities is included in the WIU Administrative Procedures Handbook. This policy states WIU facilities and services shall not be used to promote, help, finance or support any individual or group or organization campaigning for an elected office except as noted in the following guidelines:

  1. Groups or individuals representing political candidates may use designated University facilities, as available, if the group is sponsored by a recognized student, faculty, or staff organization. Scheduling priority will be given to student groups in the University Union. Arrangements and charges will be made in accordance with policies governing recognized organizations. All promotional material on events so sponsored must identify the sponsoring organization. Candidates or political groups not sponsored by recognized university organizations may rent designated campus facilities as available at set University rates.
  2. Literature on political candidates for public office may not be displayed in reception areas, classrooms, hallway walls, or external walls of the campus facilities. The exception to this policy will be in the Concourse Area of the University Union where sponsoring university organizations may display campaign material in accordance with existing University Union policy on space assignment and room rentals. Questions regarding University Union policies should be referred to the Director of the University Union. Available space will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis with students and student groups being given priority if requests on any given day exceed the assignable space available.

Elsewhere in the handbook are the pages describing what constitutes University facilities. E-mail is not exempt from this policy. The manual was distributed to all campus department offices, and is available for reference at department offices.

Political activities described in the WIU guidelines are focused on elected local, state and federal offices. If the ballot contest is regulated by the State Board of Elections, the activity is subject to campus policy and state law. With the advent of computer systems the scope of University resources has broadened and selling political campaign tickets or raising funds for candidates via University based e-mail bulletin boards is prohibited by campus policy.

The policy does not regulate open dialogue about campus issues. Campus politics and commentary are free speech issues. Commentary focused on elected local, state and federal offices, on the other hand, is subject to state laws which deny use of state property for campaign support of politics. Individuals who post editorial comments should be aware that they are publishing or broadcasting commentary in a fashion similar to those who print articles in newspapers and broadcast on television and radio and are subject to libel and slander laws.