Jason Young, Ph.D., of Ann Arbor, is an associate professor of history with the University of Michigan. He earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of California. Dr. Young is appointed to represent a member of the academic community knowledgeable in African American history, for a term commencing February 14, 2020 and expiring February 1, 2024. He succeeds Roy Finkenbine whose term expired February 1, 2020.
February 12, 2020
To the University of Michigan Campus Community:
Many members of the University community have asked about their rights and responsibilities, as state employees, in campaigning for or against a candidate or ballot initiative. We have developed the following information to help you understand the many activities in which you may engage, either as private citizens or as members of our campus community, as well as those for which University resources cannot be used, under Michigan law.
First, individuals, including those who are members of the University community, may participate fully in political activities, provided they are acting on their own behalf and using their personal time and resources. However, Section 57 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act prohibits public bodies and anyone acting for a public body from using public resources to support or oppose a candidate or the qualification, defeat, or passage of a ballot proposal.
Thus, if public resources are not involved, faculty, staff, and students have great leeway to engage in political activities. Here are some examples of the kinds of activities in which faculty, staff, and students may engage as individuals on their own time, provided they do not use University resources and do not say or imply they are acting on behalf of the University:
- Donating money to support or oppose a ballot initiative or political candidate.
- Acting as a campaign volunteer by writing letters, making phone calls, knocking on doors, or distributing flyers in support of or opposition to a candidate or ballot proposal.
- Organizing or attending rallies in support of or opposition to a political candidate or ballot proposal.
- Writing letters to the editor or op-ed pieces supporting or opposing a political candidate or ballot initiative.
- Giving speeches and participating in debates for or against a particular candidate or ballot proposal.
- Writing to elected officials to express personal opinions on a candidate or ballot initiative.
- Renting University facilities for campaign-related events, on the same terms available to any member of the public under applicable use policies for that facility, provided that fundraising will not occur at that event.
The Michigan law includes several exceptions that permit limited use of public resources for certain activities that would not constitute support for or opposition to a candidate or ballot proposal, even though those activities might be relevant to electoral decisions. Here are some examples of activities in which faculty, staff, and students may generally properly engage under the law, even if public resources are used:
- Conducting scholarly research on the effects of a ballot initiative or political issue on the University, on the state, on the economy, etc.
- Compiling and assembling data and other factual information on the effects of a ballot proposal or on candidates’ positions.
- Disseminating factual material and/or the results of scholarly research on a ballot proposal or political issue to news organizations and academic journals.
- Posting factual material about ballot proposals or political candidates and/or the results of research on a ballot initiative or political issue to a University website, Facebook page, or Twitter account.
- Planning conferences, forums, symposiums or panel discussions on campus, or inviting guest speakers (including, in some circumstances, candidates) to campus, to discuss campaign-related issues.
Faculty, staff, and students cannot, however, use public resources to engage in political activities for or against a candidate or ballot initiative. Here are some examples of political activities that use public resources in a manner that would generally not be permitted under Michigan law:
- Sending out a campaign mailing using University stationery or postage purchased by the University.
- Using an official University e-mail list or listserv to campaign for or against a ballot initiative or candidate running for office.
- Using University equipment to copy material supporting or opposing a ballot initiative or candidate, subject to existing departmental policies regarding personal use.
- As recently clarified by the Michigan Secretary of State, using a University office or other University facility, or using other University resources, such as a University-provided telephone, computer, e-mail address, social media account, etc., to support or oppose ballot initiatives or candidates running for office, even if you do not state or imply that you are speaking on behalf of the University in doing so.
- Purporting to carry on a political campaign in the name of the University or purporting to speak on behalf of the University when supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot initiative, whether in speech, writings, or social media postings.
If you plan to engage in any activities related to electoral decisions using University resources, it may be helpful to seek additional guidance to ensure that the activities are constructed so that they do not appear to constitute support for or opposition to a candidate or ballot initiative.
Further general information, including frequently asked questions and answers, has been posted to the University’s website. Please direct additional questions to Maya R. Kobersy in the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel at (734) 764-0304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cynthia H. Wilbanks, Vice President for Government Relations
Timothy G. Lynch, Vice President and General Counsel
April 1, 2020 is Census Day.
The United States Census happens every 10 years and counts every person living in the U.S. and the five U.S. territories. It includes questions on participant demographics and is confidential. The University of Michigan is coordinating Census 2020 awareness efforts across campus, and with the city of Ann Arbor.
For Census 2020 information visit
For Information on University Census efforts visit the Ginsberg Center’s website.
To participate in Census-related University events, visit
Happenings@Michigan and search Census
Internal and external partners committed to the Census 2020 effort include, but are not limited to the following:
City of Ann Arbor
The City of Ann Arbor‘s mission is to deliver exceptional services that sustain and enhance a vibrant, safe and diverse community.
Edward Ginsberg Center
The Ginsberg Center works with students, faculty, and staff across campus to advance knowledge, skills, and commitment to socially responsible civic engagement. Democratic engagement – including non-partisan voter engagement, civics and media literacy, and dialogue across difference – are crucial components within the full scope of our civic engagement work.
The Office of the Vice President for Government Relations
The Office of the Vice President for Government Relations directs the University’s interactions at the local, state, and federal levels. This includes planning and developing the institution’s response to proposed legislation; analyzing and assessing legislative, administrative, and regulatory activities as they pertain to University programs, activities, and operations; and developing and maintaining effective relationships with governmental agencies and officials.
Student Life is committed to student learning and the development of the whole student in a diverse campus community. Through our programs, services, facilities and partnerships, we facilitate students’ transformation and enrich their education.
UMSocial and Public Engagement
UMSocial maintains the strategic direction and development of all University-wide social accounts, as well as college, school, and program presences. UMSocial also maintains an official inventory of accounts, provides consultation services and training, and offers best practices. The office is focused on encouraging collaboration and promoting a unified campus message. UMSocial staff members also oversee the daily content management of central social platforms and disseminate messaging that promotes University-related initiatives.
U-M Public Affairs
The U-M Public Affairs staff forecasts and manages emerging issues and handles crisis communication for the University; responds to media inquiries involving University executives and other senior administrators; serves as the central public voice for the University; develops communication strategies to advance major University priorities and initiatives; and advises individuals and units throughout the University regarding communications.