Frequently Asked Questions
This web site provides general background information on legal issues in higher education. Because laws, regulations, and policies frequently change, you should not rely on this information to resolve a particular problem. These FAQs are intended to provide general guidance and should not be relied upon as direct legal advice. If you are faced with a problem that has a legal component, we encourage you to consult with the Office of Legal Counsel before you act.
Political Activity and Campaigning on Campus
Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)3)
Organizations described in Section 501(c)(3) and exempted from federal income tax (charities, educational institutions, churches, etc.) are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of , or in opposition to, any candidate for political office. The federal courts have upheld this prohibition on political campaign activity (most recently in Branch Ministries v. Rossotti. 211 F. 3d 137 (D.C. Cir. 2000). The federal courts have held that it is not unconstitutional for the tax laws to impose conditions, such as the political campaign prohibition, upon exemption from federal income tax.
Governing Regulation Part I, The University of Kentucky (Definition)
Ethical Principles and Code of ConductUse of University's Name
"University members have a public association with the University, but are also private citizens, thus care must be taken to appropriately differentiate between the two roles. University members may not use or allow the use of the name of the University or identify themselves as employees of the University of Kentucky in the public promotion or advertising of commercial products without written prior approval. Individuals writing or speaking publically in a professional or expert capacity may identify themselves by their relationship with the University, but if so identified then in all instances where the individual might give even the appearance of speaking on behalf of the University care must be taken to emphasize that any views expressed are their own and are not representative of the University of Kentucky. University members are encouraged to contribute to public debate as citizens. In instances where University members comment publically as a part of their official University duties, they should do so using University stationery and email accounts; when commenting as citizens, University members must use personal stationery and personal email accounts."
University members should be responsible stewards of University resources. University members are entrusted with protecting the property, equipment, and other assets of the University and exercising responsible, ethical behavior when using the University's resources. University assets are intended for University activities. Limited personal use of fixed University resources, such as computers and telephones, which does not result in a charge to the University is permitted as long as the use does not interfere with assigned job duties. In some instances, a University member may use University equipment outside of the realm of his or her professional duties when the goals of the individual and the University coincide. Any such use must have the prior, written approval from the dean or appropriate administrator where the resources are located, and must provide that the University will be reimbursed for the full cost of the use of the equipment. Such use must not interfere with the University of Kentucky's uses, and must occur outside of the University member's regular employment assignment. The Office of the University Legal Counsel can provide an appropriate form of agreement.
"In their role as citizens, staff employees and faculty members have the same freedoms as other citizens, without institutional censorship or discipline, although they should be mindful that accuracy, forthrightness and dignity befit their association with the University. When staff employees or faculty members speak or write as citizens, they should indicate that they are not speaking for the University."
Use of Facilities
". . .University of Kentucky facilities shall be used only for educational, cultural and charitable purposes or other purposes as determined by the President. . . ."
"The University cannot endorse, support or promote any political candidate or any partisan political activity. Therefore, University facilities shall not be used for conventions, rallies, or any campaign activities that would further the interest of a political party or of a candidate or candidates of public office. The facilities of the University may be used for public forums to which all legally qualified candidates for a public office are invited to speak provided that all such candidates are given equal access and opportunity to speak.
"University facilities may be used by registered student organizations for meetings with a candidate or candidates for public office when meetings are open in attendance to students, faculty members, and staff employees of the University."
The federal law and the University's regulations on political campaigning apply ONLY to the University as an organization and its employees in their work-related capacity, not to individual leaders and employees in their private capacity as citizens. The political campaign activity prohibition is not intended to restrict freedom of speech on political matters by leaders and employees of the University; leaders and employees may speak for themselves as individuals. Further, leaders and employees are not prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, leaders and employees cannot make partisan comments in official University publications or at official University functions.
As an employee, in your individual capacity, you may be involved in support or in opposition to a candidate or a campaign under the following provisions:
- Individual political activity of an employee shall not interfere with the execution of the employee's University job duties and responsibilities;
- An employee shall not engage in political activities through University functions or publications (unless the employee is a candidate for public office and the employee's activity is appropriate and consistent with University policy concerning candidacy for public office.
- An employee should not identify her/his affiliation with the University. If the employee's affiliation with the University is identified (perhaps by a newspaper), the employee shall ensure that a clear and unambiguous message is included indicating that the employee is acting on her/his own behalf and not at the direction of or behalf of the University such that a reasonable person would not believe that the communication or activity is an endorsement of the University.
University employees may not use or provide University resources, including but not limited to mailing lists, office space, property, telephones (Office or University-paid cell), technology, photocopying, or personnel to support or oppose a political candidate, campaign, party, or action committee or group. The University and its employees may not use institutional letterhead or the email system in support of or in opposition to a political candidate, campaign, political party, action committee, or group. Unsolicited interoffice communications, including but not limited to email or other digital communications in support of or opposed to a candidate, campaign, political party, action committee, or group, are prohibited. The University or its employees may not place political advertising (e.g., signage) on University property, and no political candidate or non-student political group is permitted to place political advertising on University property.
Depending on the facts and circumstances, political candidates may be invited to campus to speak as political candidates. The determining facts and circumstances are as follows:
- A political candidate may speak at the meeting of a registered student organization.
- Political candidates may be invited to speak at a forum provided ALL candidates are given equal opportunity to speak.
- No political fundraising may occur.
Yes, a political candidate may speak on campus in her or his individual (non-political) capacity subject to the following:
- The candidate speaks ONLY in a non-candidate capacity. For example, if former Mayor Newberry were running for office, he could be invited to speak at the College of Law on equine law, a primary subject of his law practice.
- Neither the candidate nor anyone at the University makes any mention of the election or the candidacy of the individual.
- No campaign activity (signs, fliers, cards, etc.) occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance.
No, the University's email system is a resource of the University and may not be used for political campaign purposes.
The answer depends on the facts and circumstances. A faculty member may not invite a candidate for public office to speak to a class as a candidate. A faculty member may invite a candidate to speak to a class as long as the candidate speaks on a non-political subject, the candidate and the faculty member make no mention of the speaker's candidacy, and no political activity occurs.
Yes, a political candidate shall abide by the same rules and conditions that apply to all persons who use the Unrestricted Area. (Generally, speakers cannot "hawk" promotional items, cannot intrude into personal space of others, and cannot impede pedestrian traffic; amplified equipment is available under same rules and conditions as others.) Check with Office of the Director of the Student Center for details.
Yes, subject to certain rules and criteria that must be followed. A registered student organization's meetings are open to the organization's membership and their invited guests. Check with Office of the Director of the Student Center for additional information, criteria for use of University facilities, and approval of reservation of space⁄facilities.
Subject to other University policies of permission and scheduling, registered student organizations may use University facilities for partisan political purposes so long as the organization follows the usual and normal reservation policies and procedures, including payment of fees, if required, for such use. However, prolonged, political partisan use of facilities is prohibited.
Individual employees may not place political advertising (signage) on campus or on University property. However, discreet and common-sense placement of personal items is permitted in a personal office space. A small photo of a candidate, a small bumper sticker, etc. may be placed as a personal touch to an employee's personal work space, as one might place a photo of her/his family members. Political advertising is not permitted in open, public work spaces.
Individual University students may not place political advertising (i.e., signage) on University property.
Subject to other relevant University policies, registered student organizations may post political advertising (i.e., signage) on University property consistent with University signage policy.
Generally the course work of a class is within the discretion of the faculty member and in accordance with the faculty member's syllabus for the particular class. Academic coursework may require that students participate in the political campaign of their choice, but only if the University and the faculty member neither influence the students' choice of a candidate nor control the students' campaign work. Students may be excused by the faculty member from the particular class for which the assignment was given in order to fulfill this requirement. In no case may a student be required to work in a political campaign where the work is not directly related to academic or course requirements.
University publications may accept political advertising as long as it is accepted on the same basis as other non-political advertising and not attributed to the University's own view.
The Kentucky Kernel is an independent student publication. The Kentucky Kernel has policies that govern the printing of political editorials and the acceptance of political advertising.
No. Per University of Kentucky Administrative Regulation, discrimination is an action or behavior that results in negative or different treatment of an individual based upon race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, uniform service, veteran status, or physical or mental disability. Harassment, a form of discrimination, is unwelcome conduct that is based on the statuses noted above. Harassment becomes a violation of University policy when:
- the offensive conduct explicitly or implicitly becomes a term or condition of employment or participation in a University course, program, or activity; or
- the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent to interfere with an individual's work, academic or program participation, or creates an environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
Any member of the University community who engages in a prohibited act against any other member shall be subject to disciplinary action and appropriate sanctions.
Social media (My Space, Facebook, Twitter accounts, etc.) sites that are created and/or maintained by, or for, University units must avoid anything that might be considered as political campaigning. Social media accounts that are strictly personal---in your personal name and maintained personally by you from your home computer or personal laptop---may be used to express your personal political beliefs and may be used to engage in political campaigning. If you maintain a "professional" (non-UK) social media account, and use it routinely for UK-related activities such as communicating with students, you should also avoid anything that might be considered as political campaigning. Whether or not you can engage in political campaigning on a social media site that is your "professional" site depends on the extent to which your professional site is intermingled with your University position and work.
For questions or more information, please contact the Office of Legal Counsel, at (859) 257-2936, or firstname.lastname@example.org; or the Office of the Student Center Director, at (859) 257-5781, or email@example.com.
Policies and Procedures
There are numerous sources you should consult in determining whether there is a University policy, rule, or other written guidance which might govern a particular action. You can find the University’s Governing and Administrative Regulations, Human Resources Policy and Procedure, Business Procedures Manual, Senate Rules and several other policies at UK Regulations and Procedures. Depending on the nature of your question, you should also consult the Code of Student Conduct, or the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct. If you are employed in the Medical Center, you should consult the various Medical Center Policies and Procedures. Finally, various colleges and departments may have additional policies and procedures specific to their units. The Office of Legal Counsel can assist you in determining if there are any college or department policies or rules that apply.
Whether the Open Meetings Act applies to a meeting of University employees or representatives depends on a complex set of factors. There are also circumstances in which an otherwise open meeting should be closed. For specific guidelines and examples of the types of meetings that are “open”, you should go to Open Records & Open Meetings Page. If after reviewing the guidelines, you are still uncertain whether your meeting is open, you should contact the Office of Legal Counsel for assistance.
No. We can not advise you about legal problems that are personal in nature, nor can we provide you with legal representation. The Office of Legal Counsel advises the President, Board of Trustees, Administrators, Faculty, Staff and Students strictly on legal matters involving the University.
All open records request should be forwarded immediately to the Office of Legal Counsel. Kentucky law mandates that the University must respond to requests for record within three (3) days of receipt. “Receipt” is from the date you or your office receives the request, not from the date when the Office of Legal Counsel receives it. Therefore, it is imperative that you notify the legal office as soon as you receive a request for records so we can review the matter and respond in a timely manner. The legal office, on behalf of the official University records custodian, is responsible for determining whether the request is proper and whether any legal exemptions are applicable. The legal office is also responsible for gathering the requested documents and then either arranging a time for inspection of the documents or for making copies available to the requestor. The official University records custodian is Bill Swinford, Chief of Staff, Office of the President.
Please send record requests, or questions about open records, to:
301 Main Building
Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0032
Phone: (859) 257-6366
Fax: (859) 323-1062
For more information on University of Kentucky open records, click here. For general information visit the Open Records and Open Meeting site http://ag.ky.gov/civil/orom/ at the Office of Attorney General of Kentucky.
You should contact the Office of Legal Counsel, who can advise you on how to respond.
You should contact the University’s Office of Public Relations at (859) 257-3303; or, if you are employed in the medical center, call the Office of Public Relations at (859) 323-6363.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that establishes rules and regulations regarding access to and disclosure of a student’s education records. The University also maintains a student records policy. The University is required to comply with FERPA’s confidentiality protections and to adhere to procedures dealing with student education records and directory information. For more information on FERPA, go to Office of the Registrar - FERPA.
FERPA defines “education records” to include all the records maintained by an educational institution that directly relate to a current or former student. FERPA’s definition of education record is interpreted broadly to include written, electronic, video, audio and photographs. For more information on FERPA, go to Office of the Registrar - FERPA.
Generally, a college or university that receives federal funding cannot disclose education records to anyone other than the student (including the student’s parents), without the student’s written permission. However, FERPA does establish several exceptions that allow an institution to disclose education records without the student’s prior written consent. For more information on FERPA, go to Office of the Registrar - FERPA.
Yes. FERPA gives students the right to inspect and obtain a copy of their own educational records. You may be charged a fee covering the cost of copying, but not the search or retrieval of the records.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 is a federal law that requires medical providers to protect and secure individually identifiable patient health information in certain ways. HIPAA also governs how medical providers can use and disclose health information. For more information about HIPAA, visit Chandler Medical Center - HIPAA.
Purchases made by the University are subject to the Kentucky Model Procurement Code and the University’s Business Procedures Manual. Before you consider making any purchase, you should first review the University’s Business Procedures Manual. If after reviewing the Manual you need assistance, you should contact the University Purchasing Division at (859) 257-9100. The Purchasing Division staff will help you work through these procedures properly.
Only those persons authorized by the University’s Board of Trustees or the President may enter into contracts on behalf of the University. Please see University of Kentucky Administrative Regulations. AR 8:3 Contract and Transaction Approval Authority provides guidance on contracting authority.
The agreement may be void and you may be held personally responsible for all damages.
From time to time, individual University employees are sued as a result of their activities as University employees. It is the University’s policy to defend you if you were acting in good faith to perform the responsibilities of your job. That means the University will provide for your legal defense if you were acting within the scope and course of your duties, and in compliance with state and federal law and University regulations and policy. If you are personally named as a defendant in a lawsuit, you should contact the Office of the Legal Counsel immediately.
If you are an employee and you are injured while carrying out the responsibilities of your job, you should contact the Employee Benefits Office in the University’s Human Resource department at (859)257-9519 x155.
If you suffer a personal injury or property damage that is unrelated to your employment responsibilities, you must file a claim with the Kentucky Board of Claims. The Board of Claims is responsible for deciding claims filed against the state by citizens who believe their person or property has been damaged through negligent acts on the part of the state. Because the University is a public institution, such claims against the University fall within the jurisdiction of the Board of Claims.
If you believe your claim is less than $100, you may file a claim directly with the Office of Legal Counsel Legal Office using the University Claim Form. If you believe your claim is $100 or more, you should file your claim directly with the Kentucky Board of Claims, in Frankfort, Kentucky, using their form. Both forms can be found at IT eForms. The $100 or more claim form is also available at the state Board of Claims website.
Your claim, in either event, must be filed within one year of the date of the loss, except for medical claims, in which case you should consult with the Board of Claims. You may be represented by an attorney if you so choose. The University is required to respond to your claim within 30 days after receipt of a copy of the Claim Form. The time required to process your claim may vary depending upon the complexity of your claim. Your recovery is limited to out-of-pocket expenses, including loss of earnings, but excluding mental distress, pain and suffering. Any third party payment (such as insurance) received by you will be credited against any award. For more information, visit the Board of Claims website.
The Board of Claims is responsible for deciding claims filed against the state by citizens who believe their person or property has been damaged through negligent acts on the part of the state. Because the University is a public institution, such claims against the University fall within the jurisdiction of the Board of Claims. For more information, visit the Board of Claims website.
Workers’ compensation is administered by the University’s Human Resources department in the Employee Benefits Office. For general questions about workers compensation, you should call the Employee Benefits Office at (859) 257-9519 x155.
To report a NON-EMERGENCY work-related injury, call UK Worker’s Care at 1-800-440-6285. UK Worker’s Care staff will collect information concerning the incident and the employee will be referred to a network physician. To report an EMERGENCY work-related injury call 911 first and then report the claim to UK Worker’s Care at 1-800-440-6285 as soon as possible.
Unemployment issues are handled by the University’s Human Resources department. All questions involving unemployment should be directed to Jeaune Hadl, at (859) 257-9555 x179.
Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
You should contact your human resources employee relations specialists at (859) 257-9555 x128. Your human resources employee relations specialist will help you work through the appropriate steps properly. For more information, visit the Human Resources Policy and Procedure Manual.
You should contact the Office of Institutional Equity & Equal Opportunity at (859) 257-8927. The Institutional Equity staff can discuss your concerns, help you clarify your allegations, and work through various alternatives to resolve the matter. If you want to file a formal complaint, the staff will investigate and make a recommendation as to whether discrimination occurred, along with potential corrective action, to the administrators in your unit. For more information about sexual harassment and discrimination, visit the Office of Institutional Equity & Equal Opportunity.
You should contact the Office of Institutional Equity & Equal Opportunity at (859) 257-8927. Staff from the Office of Institutional Equity & Equal Opportunity will work with supervisors and administrators to review actions in light of claims of harassment or discrimination and to respond to those complaints. To be unlawful, discrimination must be based on a person’s race, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation. Any member of the University community who believes he/she has experienced sexual harassment or any form of discrimination may seek information and advice by contacting the Office of Institutional Equity & Equal Opportunity.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees certain rights to citizens, including free speech, a free press, and freedom of religion. Freedom of speech is a treasured right in the academic community; however, in no setting is there an absolute right to free speech. The freedom of thought and belief are absolute, but other freedoms are not absolute and depend on time, place, and circumstances. Freedom of speech does NOT include freedom to use speech that is (a) slanderous or libelous, (b) lewd or obscene, (c) profane or blasphemous, (d) will result in breech of peace, (e) advocates commission of crime, (e) is insulting and constitutes “fighting words” or words that by their very nature cause injury, (f) constitutes a clear and present danger to the nation, or (g) openly advocates overthrow of the government. If you have a question as to whether an action you propose to take may implicate these issues, please contact the Office of the Legal Counsel before you act.
For more information, please see:
- GR Part I, The University of Kentucky (Definition), section: Political Activity
- GR Part I, The University of Kentucky (Definition), section: Civic Responsibility of the Individual
- GR Part X, Regulations Affecting Employment, section: Faculty Members as Scholars and Citizens
- AR 9:1, Regulations Governing Time, Place, and Manner of Meetings, Demonstrations, and Other Assemblies
- Student Rights and Responsibilities, Part III
For information about intellectual property issues, you should contact the University’s Intellectual Property Development & Technology Transfer Office at (859)257-2300 or go to Faculty Guide to IP & Tech Transfer.
Please also see: