One of the overarching responsibilities of Administrative Affairs is to ensure University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville faculty and staff comply at every level with appropriate rules, regulations, policies and procedures.
To that end, it is important all faculty and staff be aware of laws and rules that govern their communication with elected officials and their staffs. These include important restrictions on lobbying activity that, if violated, may result in significant penalties for the university and for those employees.
As citizens, all individuals have free-speech rights that allow them to “lobby” government officials on public issues. However, as state employees, all faculty and staff are under more stringent requirements, and the courts have placed some restrictions on free speech. These requirements are intended to protect both UF and its employees. It is not intended to squelch free speech or discourage civic engagement on campus.
The following general guidelines may be helpful as employees seek to exercise their rights under the First Amendment, while also respecting the legal restrictions placed on state employees.
- Political action or “lobbying” can be defined as attempting to persuade state government officials, via any medium, such as signing petitions, organizing or participating in demonstrations, distributing fliers or raising funds.
- Employees may volunteer for and engage in political activities on their own time (including leave time), using their own computer, fax machine or other equipment, via a non-UF server.
- Employees may not use any UF listserves, computers, telephones, etc., to encourage colleagues to take political action or to contact government officials for the purposes of lobbying. Employees may not use their UF email for political action.
- Faculty may discuss politics in and outside the classroom within the educational context of teaching a course or conducting research.
- Faculty should not direct students to volunteer for or engage in political action as part of a course requirement.
- Employees should not engage in political activities during UF’s regular business hours, which are essentially 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may use vacation time for this purpose.
- At any time employees are engaged in political action, they should make it clear they speak for themselves and not for UF. Provide a disclaimer that makes it clear your actions or remarks are your own and not those of UF. UF employees may not engage in any lobbying that conflicts with university lobbying goals.
- If you wish to engage in lobbying activities on behalf of a non-UF organization or association, this should be disclosed on your outside-activities form for a conflicts assessment. Approval must be received from your department chair and the dean prior to beginning such activities.
This university policy does not apply to faculty and staff who wish to lobby a legislator on a personal matter or express an opinion on an issue in their personal capacity, on their personal time.
Below are some valuable resources addressing this topic. Contact me if you have any questions.
Florida Statute 11.061: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0011/Sections/0011.061.html Version: April 13, 2018
Joint Rules of the Florida Legislature 2016-2018: https://www.flsenate.gov/PublishedContent/ADMINISTRATIVEPUBLICATIONS/JointRules.pdf
AAUP Statement on Academic Freedom: