Policy on Employee Political Activities


Berea College aspires to foster an educational environment that develops habits of mind and action that are essential to being engaged citizens in a democratic society.  This is an important goal of a liberal arts education, a goal that cannot be met without maintaining free and open inquiry within our college community. As an academic community, the College encourages engagement in political expression.

The College’s Academic Freedom and Responsibility Policy safeguards and addresses matters of academic freedom pertaining to teaching faculty and students.  Academic freedom and its correlative responsibilities, as outlined in that policy, are vital to the teaching and learning environment of Berea College, and, of course, may be applicable to political speech and activities.

While encouraging civic engagement and maintaining academic freedom, other College policies and external legal requirements must be respected. Specifically, in order to maintain the College’s status as a tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code and comply with state and federal election campaign laws, the College and those acting on its behalf cannot seek to influence campaigns for any elective public office or any political initiative.

The following policy provides guidance on the conditions under which Berea College employees may engage in political activities or hold public office and balances considerations of civic engagement, academic freedom and other institutional policy and legal obligations.


Berea College respects and encourages the right of its employees as individual citizens to engage in local, state, and national politics. There is a long tradition of College Employees participating in such activities and this policy seeks to support and provide guidance to continue these activities. Because the College has many relationships with various political units and agencies within local, state, and federal governments, its faculty, staff, and administrators must engage in political activities or hold public office if they are able to do so: (i) within the applicable law and College policy, (ii) while meeting all of the obligations of their employment at the College, and (iii) while avoiding conflicts of interests for themselves and the College.

This policy is not intended to prohibit College Employees from freedom of political association or expression, but such associations and expression shall be exercised in the employee’s individual capacity, not as a College Employee or otherwise in contravention of College policy.

Political Activities and Campaigning

1.         College Employees must not engage in political activities on College Property during regular College working hours or at official College functions.

2.         College Employees must not, in their official capacities, including administrative and instructional responsibilities, engage in Political Activities.

3.         College Employees must not characterize their personal views as representing the College when engaged in Political Activities. College Employees should make it clear that they are not representing the College or its views while engaged in Political Activities.

4.         Participating in Political Activities by Berea College students is encouraged. College Employees must not attempt to coerce other employees or students to participate in or support their Political Activities. Sponsors of student clubs must consult with the Vice President of Student Life to confirm that their activities are in compliance with this policy.

5.         College Employees must not use College Resources to conduct Political Activities, except that the physical facilities of the College may, with written permission, be used by employees of the College who are candidates for public office in the same manner and on the same terms as the facilities may be used by non-employee candidates. College Employees must adhere to the same policies that affect non-employees in terms of the use of any campus facilities for partisan political activities. Such rentals may be arranged through a registered campus organization and the appropriate facility administrator in accordance with College policy. The College reserves its right to limit or exclude Political Activities of any kind on its campus.

6.         Questions of academic freedom relating to Political Activities will be resolved in accord with the College’s Academic Freedom and Responsibility Policy consistent with applicable law.

Employees as Candidates or Office Holders

At the earliest opportunity, College Employees who are considering campaigning for, accepting appointment to, or holding public office are expected to discuss potential conflicts or work arrangements with their supervisor (staff) or the Dean of Faculty (faculty) and notify the Human Resources Department. As they fulfill their political responsibilities ,candidates or office holders have the following options:

1.         College Employees who can demonstrate that campaigning for or holding the public office will not interfere with their job responsibilities or work schedule may do so without requesting vacation leave, an unpaid special leave of absence, or other modified work arrangements.

2.         College Employees who are unable to demonstrate that campaigning for or holding the public office will not interfere with their normal work schedule and job responsibilities may request: (i) vacation leave; (ii) an unpaid special leave of absence; or (iii) a flexible work arrangement, reduction to part-time status, or other reasonable arrangement in the College’s discretion.

3.         College Employees elected or appointed to local, state, or federal office positions requiring more than part-time effort must either request an unpaid special leave of absence or resign before they assume their new position. The primary consideration for authorizing a special unpaid leave is that it serves the best interests of the College. If special leave is denied, the employee shall resign or be terminated.


1.         “Political Activities” means campaigning, promoting or opposing any partisan political activity, political party, or candidate for public office (local, state, or national), including oneself. For purposes of this policy, being a candidate, promoting or opposing political activities or candidates for elected office within the General Faculty, College Faculty, or similar internal elections do not constitute Political Activities. Non-partisan activities, voter registration events, scholarship and teaching regarding political and social sciences ordinarily do not constitute Political Activities within the meaning of this policy.

2.         “College Employees” means all faculty and staff employed by the College, regardless of their work location. College employees are free to express their political opinions in the workplace, but they should be clear, especially when interacting with students, that these are their personal views and that they are not speaking for the College. 

3.         “College Property” means any property owned, leased, or controlled by Berea College wherever situated.

4.         “College Resources” means College-owned or furnished supplies, materials, equipment, telephones, printing or copying services, postal or email services, computer network and equipment, human resources, student labor, real property, other tangible and intangible assets. 

Approved by Administrative Committee, April 27, 2022