Leaders in the College Democrats and College Republicans are speaking out about a University of Dayton policy prohibiting the distribution of candidate endorsing literature on campus.
Lisa Sandner, an attorney in UD’s office of legal affairs, said the university adopted this position to comply with the requirements set forth in the Internal Revenue Code to maintain its tax exempt status as a non-profit, or 501(c)(3), organization.
“The University of Dayton, as an institution, is prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf
of any candidate for public office,” said Sandner.
The University of Dayton Political/Electoral Activities Policies and Practices outlines the policy for students. The five-page document defines “political” as advocacy for, or opposition to, a candidate for public office. It features what is permitted and not permitted in public on campus.
For example, UD prohibits any advertisements or editorials regarding candidates for elective public office in official university publications, and prohibits door-to-door campaigning in the student neighborhoods or dorms.
“The challenge with this issue is finding the right balance between supporting individual and organizational involvement in the political process as part of a broader educational experience and complying with the regulatory requirements to protect the university’s tax exempt status,” Sandner said . College Republicans president
Jamie Leaver said the university guidelines have a negative impact on politically inclined organizations. Leaver, a senior political science major, said the sole purpose of the College Republicans during an election season is to gain support for Republican candidates
Leaver said the university has completely obstructed this practice, and in turn has defeated the entire purpose of the organization.
College Democrats President Daniel Pfister, a sophomore marketing and leadership major, said the current policies make it hard to hold events or gather excitement about the upcoming election.
“This affects our organization because a lot of the events that we want to do as a group and open up to the community have to be modified in some way, and it makes it a lot harder for us to put on these events,” Pfister said. “They are the events that generate excitement and that students want to be involved in.”
Pfister said the current policy makes it difficult for political organizations on campus to do anything besides non-partisan events, which is upsetting during an election year when there should be a buzz of excitement throughout campus.
Senior political science major Kurt Owings said he understands that students are not allowed to put signs up in the student neighborhood, and he does not agree with this policy
“The students should be able to support a political candidate of their choosing to exercise their rights of free speech,”
Administrators such as Student Life and Kennedy Union director Amy Lopez-Matthews have expressed a willingness to cooperate with student organizations.
“We have given political student organizations a copy of the policy and will work with them on events,” said Amy Lopez-Matthews, Executive Director of Student Life and Kennedy Union.
Sandner said that students should familiarize themselves with the university’s policies and practices regarding political and electoral activities to help shape their organization’s events and activities. She said organizations should be sensitive to the restrictions placed on the university as an institution.
“They should be mindful that when they support a candidate that they do so in an individual capacity and make that distinction as clear as possible,” Sandner said.
Leaver said she understood the university’s restrictions on endorsing candidates, but reiterated she doesn’t speak for
“I understand that the university is a private institution and cannot endorse any political candidate,” Leaver said. “I have no problem with that. But I am not the University of Dayton and I do not speak on behalf of the university; I am one individual, and I speak on behalf of myself only.”
Photos for illustration contributed by Ann Dabney and Gage Skidmore