Political guidelines designed to protect university’s non-profit status
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 18:11
Loyola University has recently approved a new set of political engagement guidelines in order to ensure the university’s political neutrality this election year.
Loyola has announced these guidelines, in part, to protect its 501 (c)(3) status, which makes it a tax-exempt non-profit organization.
“The IRS and the Federal Campaign Commission have guidelines that require non- profits to have limited campaign or political activity,” Benjamin Norwood, a partner at Adams and Reese LLP, said. A single violation would most likely only result in a warning though, he said.
“You may have the IRS come knocking on the door,” Norwood said. “But the likelihood of them actually revoking Loyola’s exemption is probably pretty low.”
The guidelines were written by Director of Government Relations Tommy Screen and were approved
by various members of campus leadership and committee members of University Senate.
Screen said the issue which the guidelines are meant to address first came up during this year’s Louisiana presidential primary.
“We had received a request to host Ron Paul’s campaign event on the night of the Louisiana primary,” Screen said. “They found somewhere else before we got back to them, so it never came to fruition, but what it did do was highlight to me that we didn’t have a campaign guideline policy in place.”
The guidelines are also meant to address the concern that the university remains politically neutral, but Screen said that an individual student or professor who is making political statements on their own accord will still have their right to free speech protected.
“On a university campus, that right is cherished and practiced often,” he said.
The policy could have an effect on organizations like the Loyola
Society for Civic Engagement. But LSCE faculty advisor Dr. Roger White said that the new guidelines aren’t going to change the way the organization does things.
“I understand why we have those rules at this point because it’s such a touchy situation,” he said. “I’m less concerned with the whole partisan issue than being able to keep people involved.”
White also said that he has been faculty advisor to both the student Republicans and the student Democrats and would like to take that position again if those clubs reorganized.
He doesn’t think this policy will negatively affect the way on campus organizations function, but he emphasized that the university needs to stop problems before they start.
“The whole purpose of this policy is to try to be proactive and let folks know about the rules that are in place,” he said.
Hasani Grayson can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org