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Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Civil Disobedience

A few weeks ago, all University of Illinois faculty and staff received an email from the Ethics Office. With the upcoming presidential election, the University wanted to remind its employees which types of political activity are prohibited. Many of the restrictions are reasonable: don't use university resources to prepare and circulate campaign materials related to a specific candidate, don't solicit funds for a political candidate in your office or in the classroom, etc.

However, there were a few prohibitions that drew the ire of many, such as:

Attending a rally on University property specific to a political candidate or party - regardless of whether or not you are on University time

Wearing a pin or t-shirt in support of the Democratic Party or Republican Party, or a Democratic/Republican candidate


Graduate assistants are both employees and students at the same time. While I don't think it would be prudent of me to wear a political button while I'm teaching, I feel that I should be able to do so while I'm walking across the Quad or eating lunch at the Union. I also feel it is my right under the 1st Amendment to attend a political rally for a candidate on campus while I am off the University's clock.

I'm not the only one who is uncomfortable about the scope of the University's Ethics code. A heated debate has been brewing on campus for the past couple weeks over them in an attempt to determine the limits of academic freedom, free speech, and state laws. Yesterday afternoon, some graduate students who opposed aspects of the University's political prohibitions held a rally for Obama on the Quad. While most of us there were Obama supporters, it was less about Obama than it was about protesting the University's policies. (McCain supporters were urged to hold a rally simultaneously.)


By taking part in this rally, we were in direct violation of University policy. Today I called the Ethics Office and filed a formal ethics violationagainst myself. Other participants from the rally yesterday did the same thing. Either the University will take action against us, which will open a legal avenue for settling these issues, or the University will do nothing, which will hopefully force a reexamination of its own laws that it refuses to enforce.

I know in the large view there are an infinite number of things going on in people's daily lives that are more critical than my desire to wear a button on my jacket. But I also feel that this issue is significant in that free speech - and the government's regulation of it - is something to be fought for, no matter how small the encroachment on it.

The Chicago Tribune wrote a story about the UIUC rally yesterday. You can see a blurry SallyPants in the background of the photo:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-u-of-i-pol...

The Daily Illini, UIUC's student newspaper, had a front-page story about it. Wait for the photo to load and you'll see a hot grad student. I'm in the picture too.
http://media.www.dailyillini.com/media/storage/paper736...


33 Comments
lgrant
Those policies do sound like they are infringing on people's rights outside of work. As you said it makes sense while you are doing your job as a U employee but once you are on your own time--that seems a bit excessive. Congrats on being one of the few who will protest that in a civil way and even turn yourself in to show your respect for the university while protesting the policy. Good blog!
LGrant   Friday, October 3, 2008
nikideaton
I just heard about this on NPR this morning. Where do we draw a line on professor's being able to have their own opinions and beliefs? I think it is absurd.
niki   Friday, October 3, 2008
George
Interesting blog. Not only in itself but because this is the first Sallypants blog that I've not laughed at!
:-)
LimeyGeorge   Friday, October 3, 2008
RickMonday
Well what do you expect? They caved in to getting rid of the Chief and now this. I knew the Chief episode was just the beginning of a slippery slope and now it looks like the University has totally gone down it.

This policy is wrong. I respect everyone's right to protest, burn flags (although my screen name is Rick Monday), etc.

Good Luck Sally!

Furthermore, I think this relates somewhat to Obama's Truth squad which threatens political ads against Obama.
RickMonday   Friday, October 3, 2008
reera
I heard the same progra and agree with Niki.
dannie   Friday, October 3, 2008
courtneyheinzel
Dude, you're like my hero now. And also you're totally famous.
Courtney Heinzel   Friday, October 3, 2008
spike
GO SALLY! I love civil disobedience in the name of free speech and justice!

Also...very important...I wanted to tell you that I was at Target today and they have sock puppet slippers in the sock department !
Spike   Friday, October 3, 2008
justmeg
Wow and I thought the feds were tough on us - here is what I can and cannot do:

These federal and D.C. employees MAY

* be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
* register and vote as they choose
* assist in voter registration drives
* express opinions about candidates and issues
* contribute money to political organizations
* attend political fundraising functions
* attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
* join and be an active member of a political party or club
* sign nominating petitions
* campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
* campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
* make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
* distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
* hold office in political clubs or parties

These federal and D.C. employees may NOT

* use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
* solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
* solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
* be candidates for public office in partisan elections

engage in political activity while:
* on duty
* in a government office
* wearing an official uniform
* using a government vehicle
* wear partisan political buttons on duty

^^^note - I can wear a button if I am not on duty. Keep in mind - while not prohibited - it is still frowned upon to put political bumper stickers on your vehicle if you are on a government installation.
justmeg   Friday, October 3, 2008
RickMonday
just meg,

I dont undertand the point about not being able to run for office. Is that true?
RickMonday   Friday, October 3, 2008
justmeg
Rick - this is where I got it from because I could not find a copy of the directive that they emailed to us this summer

http://www.osc.gov/ha_fed.htm

It is called the Hatch Act

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatch_Act_of_1939
justmeg   Friday, October 3, 2008
hawkwolf
Speaking of trying to change mascots name here is interesting story. In the Southeastern part of North Carolina there is a tribe of Indians named the Lumbees. There is a campus of the UNC System there and it is called UNC-Pembroke. They polay sports and the mascot is the Brave or Brave(s), well when the NCAA wanted them to change it, the Administration polled the residents and the students and the result was don't change it. Florida State University had the same situation and the leaders of the Seminole Nation refused to make them change the name and mascot.
BeanCounter37   Friday, October 3, 2008
reera
Let us know if you have to start a legal defense fund, I'm sure you will get some supporters from Humzoo.
dannie   Friday, October 3, 2008
SallyPants
Haha, thanks. I'll post an update if the University follows up with any action. Some people are calling for everyone at the rally to be fired - if they're going to do it, please do so before I grade the stack of 75 essays sitting on my desk.
SallyPants   Friday, October 3, 2008
daveheinzel
I see what's going on here. This is blatant showboating on the part of a certain female UofI graduate student in an effort to propagate her sock monkey agenda. I will not stand for this "media whore-ery." It is my constipational right to not have U of I employees shove their skewed political mis-opinions down my throat.

Oh and also that's totally cool. You rock!
Dave Heinzel   Friday, October 3, 2008
lgrant
spoken like a true brother.
LGrant   Friday, October 3, 2008
reera
Dave, When my computer pulled up your response all I could see was the first sentence and I thought "oh no, here we go again." Then I read the whole thing and just laughted, "oh, its just Dave giving his sister a hard time."
dannie   Friday, October 3, 2008
hawkwolf
The University of Illinois must be in control of a bunch of wimps, who fear for their jobs rather than make sound decisions.
BeanCounter37   Friday, October 3, 2008
BrianHamrick
Sally, I think you all are in the right. The University is trying not to look partisan (and can't), but you all should be free on campus to attend the things of your choosing on your own time... what's next- dictating what religion you can and can't participate in? could you attend a prayer meeting on campus if you desired? If so, then's what the difference here?

If you get thrown in the slammer, I promise that I might actually, possibly, with a small degree of certitude, get up there for a visit. And if not, I'll bake you a cake with a file hidden deep inside it- that is, if you don't have a body tattoo of the prison infrastructure :^)
Brian   Friday, October 3, 2008
George
Surely the Grad students are also a source of income for the U? In which case firing them would be counter-productive and would get them bad publicity.
LimeyGeorge   Friday, October 3, 2008
spike
sock puppet slippers http://www.target.com/Soft-Ones-Monkey-Slipper-Brown/dp...
Spike   Friday, October 3, 2008
SallyPants
Yeah, absolutely they are. Grad students are the reason the University can throw together hundreds of students for a single class, which banks the Univ. big $.

Brian, I've thought along the same lines. I don't see how going to a religious service on campus is different (and there are plenty of on-campus religious affiliates). So while this particular issue may not seem like a big deal to some people, I think it sets a horrible precedent and opens to door for greater erosion of rights.

Not too far from where we held this rally, a preacher was speaking to a good-sized group of students on the Quad. He was a "fire and brimstone, you have to be born again" type of evangelical. And I thought how great was this place where any variety of beliefs could be expressed and discussed.

From the Tribune article:
"The governor's Office of Executive Inspector General, which investigates ethical violations, said it would act on complaints of political activity on college campuses depending on their severity. And it delivered a sweeping twist, saying the state law meant that university students, not just employees, were prohibited from participating in political rallies on campus--an assertion at odds with the University of Illinois' interpretation of the law."

It would be tragic to lose that.

Beany, either I read your comment wrong or we agree on something...it's gotta be the first one, right?
SallyPants   Friday, October 3, 2008
SallyPants
Spike, I have some like that! I also have a different style pair that Dave and Courtney gave me for Christmas last year. I love me some monkeys on my feet!
SallyPants   Friday, October 3, 2008
courtneyheinzel
Regarding the crazy preacher dude: Back in my UIUC days, there was either Mad Max or Brother Dan. Mighty entertaining.
Courtney Heinzel   Friday, October 3, 2008
RickMonday
Well pack up the babies and grab the old ladies everyone goes for everyone knows its Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCgeWUKcumA
RickMonday   Friday, October 3, 2008
lgrant
What if the preacher mentioned the election?
LGrant   Friday, October 3, 2008
Russ
BROTHER DAN! He was also at Eastern. Best entertainment on campus.
Russ   Friday, October 3, 2008
daveheinzel
Brother Dan was legendary. I saw him at ISU several times. He knew how to draw a crowd.
Dave Heinzel   Friday, October 3, 2008
nheinzel
Oh, no!! My daughter in prison???!!! The only reason I'm not on my way to Bloomington right this minute is because it says in the Chicago Tribune article that the university has no intention of punishing you guys. Which is wonderful (especially for your mothers) but it makes you wonder then why have the rule in the first place???

I'm proud of you for standing up for what you believe in, honey. Just please don't lose your job and move back home with four cats!! LOL
!   Friday, October 3, 2008
hawkwolf
SallyPants: What course are you teaching that you have 75 essays to grade? Have you ever heard of the Stair Step Grading Method? Well let me tell you about this Method. You stand at the top of some stairs and you divide the stairs into five areas (A,B,C,D, and F). After having divided the stairs you stand at the top of the stairs and toss each paper. The ones that land closest to you get As and the one s in between get Bs,Cs, ands,Ds and lastly the ones that last furthest away get Fs because you know they have nothing but pencil lead and other substances in them but have no real relevance to the subject of the essay.
BeanCounter37   Friday, October 3, 2008
nheinzel
It is Monday night now and I just heard on the news that the U of I sent out a new email today reversing their previous position, upholding freedom of speech and allowing professors, etc. to express their opinions on campus. Way to go, Sally Pants and all you others who fought to keep our freedom alive!!!!! I'm proud of you!!!!
!   Monday, October 6, 2008
BrianHamrick
SallyPants- get out there and make some noise for Obama! (if you were in a swing state, I wouldn't be saying this :)
Brian   Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I hope you ralize that you have a fan base that seems to be centered around the Chicago area that is upset at the ammount of time that has elapsed since your last blog. By fan base, I mean one person, but I have the devotion of a hundred men. Time to post.
stinkydude   Thursday, November 13, 2008
SallyPants
Stinkydude, I'm sorry to let down my fan base. I only know 2 people from Chicago - Barack Obama and Oprah - so I can only assume you're one or the other.
SallyPants   Thursday, December 4, 2008
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