Dylan Reynolds, Undergraduate Board of Trustees Representative
This is a request for feedback on proposed Board Policy 214: Institutional Authority on Political Matters. My name is Dylan Reynolds, I am the Undergraduate Board of Trustees Representative for USM. In essence my role is to act as a liaison between the USM undergraduate students and the Board of Trustees and to represent the undergraduate student body. I attend all Board of Trustees meetings and relay information to the Student Government Association.
I am writing this missive in response to some questions I’ve been asked about Policy 214: Institutional Authority on Political Matters. In short, this policy will be an extension of Policy 212: Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and Civility and is intended outline the University of Maine System’s (UMS) neutral position on partisan political matters. This discussion began in November 2016 when a student representative inquired if the Board of Trustees would make a statement in the aftermath of the presidential election.
In part, due to continued confusion and requests for statements from USM on various political issues the Board determined that it was necessary to expound upon why USM does not take stances on partisan political issues. Because the University of Maine System is funded by state taxpayer and federal funds, and also holds a federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, UMS is unable to take partisan positions on political issues in accordance with specific IRS guidelines.
This policy proposal was also made due to a desire for consistency among the campuses in terms of legislative advocacy. The Board of Trustees also reserves the right to issue statements or decline to make statements on political matters on behalf of the University of Maine System. This does not restrict employees making personal statements on political issues. The proposed policy also seeks to distinguish between when an employee (President, faculty, provost, etc.) is speaking on behalf of the institution and is subject to the federal guidelines and their protected rights to speak on any and all matters as an individual and an expert in their field.
In terms of my personal views on proposed Board Policy 214, I believe that it is an enlightening explanation of the University System’s speech policy that serves to bring greater transparency and understanding. I am also appreciative of the Board taking steps to address student concerns and to consult both students and faculty as they have done throughout the committee process. The important point is that this is an opportunity to engage in a necessary discussion about these issues.
The final edits to Board Policy 214 is still ongoing and that this is an opportunity for the USM student body to provide feedback and potentially influence board policy. As a Student Representative, I am supposed to be representing the student body interests. Therefore, this exhortation is also a request for feedback and input from the student body on Policy 214: Institutional Authority on Political Matters. Please feel free to email me ([email protected]) with any feedback or questions which I will be compiling to provide to one of the committee members tasked with drafting this policy.