“University employees, as citizens, have the right to engage in political activity. However, university employees are not allowed to engage in political activities during usual office hours (generally considered as 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) or use University communication devices or University signatures.”The issue is simple. Thinking and free expression are good things. A preference for order in the face of them isn't a sparkling reference for educators and school board members.
The cited policies do not ban political activity from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but rather instruct employees to “do so on your own time, outside of working hours or when you are on annual leave or leave without pay, and you must maintain appropriate supporting records.” Employee Handbook 9.6. The blocked time (8-5, presumably Monday-Friday) would add up to 45 hours, which would suggest that our classified employees are barred from pursuing political activities outside their compensated hours.
B. Barred activities include “communicating personal thoughts or opinions about pending legislation”
The email provides: “Political activities can include running for office, working on a campaign, communicating personal thoughts or opinions about pending legislation and other forms of political advocacy.”
The cited policies do not describe "communicating personal thoughts or opinions about pending legislation and other forms of political advocacy" as a political activity. BOT Policy 465.1 provides these examples of political activities:
• campaigning for a candidate for office,
• circulating petitions,
• coercing public employees to campaign for a candidate,
• using publicly-funded rooms (unless others also can use those rooms for such purposes),
• using materials funded by public funds to campaign for office,
• coercing public employees to give contributions for political purposes, or
• putting campaign materials on University vehicles.
(These are summaries. Longer descriptions are in the policy.) UAF Policy 9.6 seems largely derived from BOT Policy 465.1. Policy 9.7 and Policy 3.11 provide that employees should not speak on behalf of the university to elected officials, but notes that employees retain “the right to exercise freedom of expression on legislative matters.” Policy 3.10 (for faculty service) is more specific about what happens if an employee runs for office. These policies do not describe “communicating personal thoughts or opinions about pending legislation and other forms of political advocacy” as barred political activity.
FHS WALKOUT: Our student leaders... leading; our students and staff... remembering & honoring. PROUD to be Superintendent... ONE FPS!👏👍 pic.twitter.com/2qOW0e1iXw— Dr. Matthew Wendt (@FPS_Supt) March 14, 2018
My decision to uphold ASMSA’s expectations affords students the opportunity to reflect on their values and priorities. Enforcing a low-level sanction for an unexcused absence was never intended to stifle participation but to provide a framework for the realities of engaging in civil disobedience both now and in adulthood. Taking a stand often involves some level of risk and consequence. ASMSA is a place where learning is not only measured by success in the classroom but also in personal growth. I commend students who chose solidarity with their peers across the nation and who use all tools of civic engagement available to them.