Restrictions on Political Activity Overview
Wesleyan is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit entity as defined by the Internal Revenue Service. Under the IRS restrictions, Wesleyan is prohibited from participation in political activities. IRS Revenue Ruling 2007-41, published June 18, 2007 (“IRS 2007-41”) describes this restriction: “Organizations that are exempt from income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as organizations described in section 501(c)(3) may not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
While at first blush IRS Rev. Rul. 2007-41 may seem innocuous, the IRS has ruled that prohibited activity may include indirect support such as the use of institutional resources and facilities. See IRS 2007-41. Wesleyan’s policy with respect to political activity is simply to comply with the IRS guidelines. With only modest scenario changes, hypothetical examples can vary wildly along a continuum between acceptable and unacceptable. As shown in IRS 2007-41, the IRS has chosen to evaluate such activity based upon all of the facts and circumstances in each case.
Pursuant to IRS interpretations, use of University facilities by political candidates is not, in and of itself, problematic. In order to comply with the IRS guidelines however, the University and University supported groups must provide comparable time and resources equally among all legally qualified candidates. As a result, the University insists that student or other groups wishing to bring political speakers to campus extend their invitation to other competing candidates as well. Alternatively, it would be acceptable for student groups to invite political candidates to events where no University resources were used (including University subsidies to the group, physical space (except where leased at market rate), administrative support, etc.).
In response to student requests, the University has opted to take a further step to encourage political visits to campus in accordance with IRS restrictions. The University has adopted this policy and in its marketing materials allowing free, equal access to any political candidate to certain University facilities at no cost under set terms and conditions:
- The available facilities would be Science Tower 150 (Tishler Hall) & Science Tower 184 (Woodhead Lounge), to the extent not previously reserved.
- The arrangements would have to be made directly by the interested candidate or their staff to the Wesleyan Events & Conferences Office (860.685.2280) no later than five business days before the date requested and reservations will be granted on a first come, first served basis. Events & Conferences will generate a contract which must be signed by the client for the use of the space.
- Candidates who cancel confirmed bookings less than 48 hours prior to the booking or do not show for bookings may be restricted in future bookings.
- The candidate would be responsible to meet and agree to all University policies of use for facilities.
- Any other university services (food, crowd management, public safety, ITS, custodial, etc.) if necessary, will be available on equal terms to all candidates at market rates paid by the candidate or event organizers but not supported in any way by the university.
- The maximum attendance at the event/visit would be limited to the maximum occupancy of the room (Science Tower 150 seats 298 people; Woodhead Lounge seats 85 people). Other facilities may be made available through the University Events & Scheduling Office and in accordance with IRS restrictions. Contact this office for information and rates.
- University personnel, including subsidized student groups may invite particular candidates only by providing the candidate with copies of the University policy for such visits.
- The University does not support or endorse the candidacy of any political candidate.
Approved by the Student Life Committee, 12/11/07