To the editor:
In response to Hannah Reynold’s Nov. 25 opinion column, “‘Speak Freely,’ except on fossil fuel divestment,” I write to address any misconceptions about the rights and responsibilities of University staff when speaking on matters of political, public policy, or civic interest.
Consistent with its statement on freedom of expression, the University encourages and supports the free expression and exchange of ideas and views by all members of our community. That means that every staff member is free to engage on their own behalf and on their own time in discourse and advocacy on political or policy matters.
In keeping with University policy as well as federal law that regulates the University as a nonprofit organization, these activities must not interfere with the fulfillment of a staff member’s responsibilities to the University or be conducted at the expense of the University. And staff, as well as faculty, must take special care to make it clear that they are speaking only for themselves and not for the University.
The University’s staff is made up of thousands of dedicated employees from all backgrounds, and their views on political and policy issues vary widely. In keeping with our values and the University’s informal motto, “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity,” we value and hold dear that employees speak out and dedicate their personal time and efforts to causes that are important to them. Our approach protects the rights of all staff members to speak out on their own behalf on issues, while reserving the workplace for advancing the crucial research and teaching mission of the University.
Employees who have questions about this or any other workplace issue can speak with their manager or the senior Human Resources manager assigned to their office or department. Any staff member who feels their speech is being curtailed can also reach out to the University Ombuds Office, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity or the University’s EthicsPoint hotline. Guidance for faculty and staff on political and public advocacy activities is also available online.
Lianne Sullivan-Crowley serves as the University’s Vice President for Human Resources.