Beware the Button Police
by Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Education
Sporting an Obama or McCain button? Driving a car with one of the campaigns’ bumper stickers? You might need to be careful on University of Illinois campuses.
The university system’s ethics office sent a notice to all employees, including faculty members, telling them that they could not wear political buttons on campus or feature bumper stickers on cars parked in campus lots unless the messages on those buttons and stickers were strictly nonpartisan. In addition, professors were told that they could not attend political rallies on campuses if those rallies express support for a candidate or political party.
Faculty leaders were stunned by the directives. Some wrote to the ethics office to ask if the message was intended to apply to professors; they were told that it was. At Illinois campuses, as elsewhere, many professors do demonstrate their political convictions on buttons, bumper stickers and the like.
Cary Nelson, a professor at the Urbana-Champaign campus and national president of the American Association of University Professors, said that he believes he is now violating campus policy when he drives to work because he has a bumper sticker that proclaims: “MY SAMOYED IS A DEMOCRAT.”
[Read the rest – along with LOTS of reader comments – on Higher Ed Online.]