Smith College is a charitable entity subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding political and campaign activities. As such, the college is legally prohibited from endorsing candidates for political office or making any contribution of money, goods, or services to candidates. It is important, therefore, that no person intentionally or unintentionally cause the college to make such an endorsement or contribution.
There is no restriction on discussion of political issues or teaching of politics or campaign-related topics. While all members of the college community are also free to express political opinions and engage in political activities, it is essential that they do so only in their individual capacities and avoid even the appearance that they are speaking or acting for the college in political matters. Individuals taking political positions for themselves or groups with which they are associated should therefore clearly indicate, by words and actions, that their positions are not those of the college and are not being taken in an official capacity on the college’s behalf.
This policy statement, which addresses campaigns for political office and activities related thereto, articulates ways in which individuals can avoid having their personal opinions appear to be those of the college as an entity. The following specific guidelines are intended to aid all Smith College community members—students, staff, and faculty—in acting consistently with the legal restrictions on the college.
Activities Requiring the Use of Facilities or Open Areas on Campus
Political activities hosted at but not sponsored by the college, and that do not reasonably imply sanctioning by or affiliation with Smith College, may be undertaken so long as regular college procedures are followed for the use of facilities. Candidates running for office and/or members of a campaign staff wishing to use college facilities for appearances must comply with established college policies and rental fees, and must go through the Events Management Office for further information and reservations. No political fundraising is allowed at such an event.
Smith College as an institution may invite candidates running for public office for a forum or debate. Such a forum or debate must include all eligible candidates for a specific office who receive at least 8 percent in any one of the most recent polls conducted by these institutions: Suffolk University, University of Massachusetts, or Western New England College.
Political Activity and Student Organizations
Student political clubs and organizations recognized by the college may invite candidates or campaign surrogates of their choosing to speak on campus. Fundraising at such events is prohibited. Smith College is a 501 (c)(3) organization and may not sponsor partisan political events or provide support to particular candidates running for office. With that, posters, social media, emails, and websites advertising any such event should include the following disclaimer: “The opinions expressed will be neither the opinions of Smith College or its Trustees nor sanctioned by Smith College." The leadership of the sponsoring organization of such an event will also issue that disclaimer in the beginning of the event. In addition, the Smith College logo may not be used in any promotional materials, electronic advertising, and/or social media advertising the event.
The date, length, and format of the program and all other aspects of the program should be determined solely by the student organizations, with no involvement by Smith College (except that any College rules generally applicable to all events sponsored by student groups would apply). In addition, facilities must be available to the Smith Republicans, the Smith Democrats, and any similar group (e.g., the Smith Green Party or a group formed to support an independent candidate) on an equal basis.
In summary, student clubs may be formed for partisan or political purposes so long as:
- The formation and actions of the club comply with existing college policies.
- Any fundraising done by the club on behalf of a candidate, campaign, party or other political organization must take place off Smith property and cannot utilize college resources (including Smith's network resources, directory information and name or logo).
- The club does not donate any Smith College resources - either financial or in-kind - to a candidate, campaign, party or other political organization.
- The club makes the following disclaimer in all printed and electronic materials, and at any events it hosts: “The opinions expressed here are neither the opinions of Smith College or its Trustees nor sanctioned by Smith College."
Distinct from political campaign activities, lobbying consists of activities designed to influence decisions of legislators for or against a particular issue. Lobbying or attempting to influence federal, state, or local legislative action or a legislative or administrative official or staff member by using the name of the college may only be authorized by the president or her or his designee. Any lobbying activity, even when authorized, must be conducted in compliance with applicable law. No person may use federally funded contract or grant money received by the college for lobbying activities. Note, however, that individuals may individually attempt to influence the legislative process and use their college title for identification so long as such actions or writings are accompanied by a statement that the person is speaking as an individual and not as a representative of the college. (e.g. “The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the individual(s) signing below and not an official opinion of Smith College or its trustees.”)
Use of the Smith College Name and the Seal
Neither the name nor seal of the college or of any of its departments may be used on letters or other materials intended for partisan political purposes. College office addresses and e-mail addresses may not be used as a return mailing address for partisan political mailings. College telephones may not be used for partisan political purposes. However, campus residential telephone services may be used for these purposes. College services, such as interdepartmental mail, electronic mail, and mailing lists; equipment, such as duplicating machines, computers, facsimile machines; and supplies may not be used for partisan political purposes. No college employee may, as part of his or her job, be requested to perform tasks in any way related to partisan political purposes.
Responsibility for Interpretation
The Office of College Relations, in consultation with the Office of the President, interprets and applies these policies and guidelines. All questions on whether planned activities are consistent with the college's obligations should be addressed directly to the vice president for public affairs or her or his designee. In addition, students and student groups planning political or campaign activities should discuss their plans with the dean of the college or her or his designee. Students and student groups in the School for Social Work planning political or campaign activities should discuss their plans with the dean of the School for Social Work or her or his designee.
Approved by senior administrators
April 14, 2013