By: Dominic Sanfilippo – Staff Writer
On Monday, March 14, the Nurses for Bernie drove up to the University of Dayton’s campus for a quick stop on Brown and Stonemill Streets during their cross-country tour supporting the presidential Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the country with 185,000 members, sponsor the nurses to travel the country and connect with voters on issues like health care and student debt. Upon their arrival, the nurses walked through the public streets of the University of Dayton’s student neighborhood.
As soon as they crossed onto the sidewalk on Evanston Avenue, which connects the neighborhood to UD’s academic campus, Public Safety officers rolled up and told the nurses to leave campus because they were trespassing on private property and had not cleared their presence with the university beforehand.
The nurses stated to the Public Safety officers and to Flyer News that they had visited many private—and parochial—college campuses in the months and weeks prior with no problems. After speaking with the Public Safety officers for several minutes, the nurses walked back to Brown Street and left campus. They visited the University of Cincinnati—a public university—later that same day, according to their Twitter account.
In the hours before their arrival, they tweeted out, “Get ready Univ of #Dayton! #Berniebus is headed your way.” The bus stopped and parked on Brown Street at about 11:30 a.m.
According to an email UD Media Relations sent to Flyer News 11 days after the original inquiry, “The University became aware of the visit an hour before its start. Before Nurses United arrived on campus and, again, when their bus arrived, our public safety officers reached out to them and explained the University had not been notified of the event nor was the event registered to be on campus. The public safety officers on the scene offered other public locations where the group could assemble. They also reported the event staff was professional, not confrontational and complied without incident.
“The issue was the group had not requested permission to bring their bus to campus and conduct their event on University property, it was unrelated to political expression,” the email concluded.
As of publication, Flyer News did not hear back from the nurses about Public Safety’s phone call prior to their arrival.
According to Twitter and National Nurses United’s web page, they visited and held a rally at the academic campus of Ohio State University—a public research university—on Sunday, March 13, visited five colleges in South Carolina in one day on Wednesday, Feb. 17, including the private institutions of Claflin University, Benedict College and Allen University, as well as the public University of Massachusetts-Boston’s campus on Monday, Feb. 29.
The UMass Boston independent student newspaper, The Mass Media, reported, “The group arrived in their signature red bus in front of the Campus Center and talked to students about casting their vote.”
All higher educational institutions have different rules, policies and regulations regarding their private property, and many private institutions have policies regarding political and electoral activity on campus. The University of Dayton—as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) institution—has a five-page document called “Political/Electoral Activities Policies and Practices” that was last amended on Apr. 20, 2012 and is publicly available online.
“As a university, we welcome dialogue and encourage students, faculty, and staff to become involved in the political process through holding educational events on campus such as voter registration drives, candidate debates, and other voter education activities,” the opening paragraph reads. “The University, as an institution, however, is in the possession of considerable material resources which have been acquired through its status as a tax-exempt institution of higher learning.”
It goes on to state, “The University of Dayton must safeguard its tax-exempt status by establishing guidelines for those University community members wishing to exercise their right to participate in political activities on or off campus.”
The seventh item listed under “activities that are not permitted” states that “door to door campaigning in the student neighborhood is permissible in compliance with University policy. Door to door campaigning in the residence halls or in official University public places is not permissible.”
Additionally, the 13th item states, “Any political activity, whether sponsored by campus based organizations or by external organizations, may be terminated immediately if found in violation of the above guidelines. Sponsors of such terminated events can be subject to provide reimbursement of costs incurred by the University.”
The bus violated a combination of these and other rules within the policy.
The Academic Senate of the University of Dayton, an elected legislative and consultative body comprised of faculty, administrators and students, has discussed and debated the content and aims of UD’s Political/Electoral Activities in the past several years.
A lot of the faculty and students were confused by the current policy.
“A lot of the faculty and students were confused by the current policy,” said senior Erin Dingle, the outgoing director of academic affairs for the Student Government Association and a voting member of the Academic Senate. “There seems to be a lot of room for political expression, but that doesn’t come through in practice. There was a general hope that faculty and students would want to be more politically active and that a revised policy could help achieve that.”
According to Dingle and the public minutes from the December 2015 Academic Senate meeting, the Student Academic Policies Committee wrote three linked resolutions that were subsequently voted on and passed unanimously by the entire Senate. The second called for “the legal team and the university’s government liaison fully investigate the relevant legal parameters for political activity of students and employees within administrative law.”
The third resolution expressed the desire that “affirmative guidelines be developed and policies amended in light of these parameters that encourage political activity and expression by students and employees without compromising the University’s nonprofit status.”
According to Dingle, the resolution was sent to UD’s legal team. As of publication, Flyer News has no further information of the status of the resolution.