Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Sauce for the Goose Ain't Necessarily Sauce for the Gander


Guest Post by Mata Hari

Can App State trustees help "launch" a political action committee (PAC) designed to influence municipal elections in Boone? Especially in view of this: On August 26, ASU’s General Counsel, Paul Meggett, sent a harshly worded four-page document to faculty and staff warning against “Political Activities of Employees, Candidacy for Elective Office; Office Holding (Elective and Appointive Public Office) and Free Speech and Free Expression.” It stated the following (among other fine points):

“No employee may use his or her position, state or university funds, services (including mail or email service), supplies (including letterhead), equipment (including telephones and computers), vehicles or other university property to support or oppose a candidate, party or issue in an election involving candidates for office. See, N.C. Gen. Stat. §126-13 (applicable to SHRA employees); see, UNC Policy 300.5.1 (applicable to EHRA employees).”

There are perfectly sound reasons for such policies. But as Meggett also notes, being a “state employee does not mean you lose your constitutional rights to participate (or not participate) as you desire in the political process as long as such participation is not on work time and does not involve the use of university property.”

Were two AppState trustees violating at least the spirit of the "no politics" clause? Worth noting -- section 101.4 A 5 of the UNC Code (the governing document for the whole university system) clearly intends to keep service to the UNC System and electoral politics separate.

Ethics is as much about avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest as it is about breaking the law. Chancellor Everts and Provost Norris implied, at the Faculty Senate meeting on Monday, that they knew nothing about App Pac. Shouldn’t the Boone community be skeptical when the chancellor and provost say they never discussed with App State trustees a plan to elect a town council that is favorable to the university’s real estate interests?

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