August 11, 2020
This message will double for my usual weekly communication and the JCEP Question Series.
A question was asked at the June 26 JCEP special edition of the Friday Extension Updates about my perceptions about and university policies on political activity. While the primary season is over and I have experienced significantly fewer texts from the various candidates, I believe we all know that the political advertisements, discussions, debates, arguments and muckraking will become increasingly frequent as November draws nearer.
Our official policies on political activity can be found here: https://www.k-state.edu/govrelations/university/PAP.html.
Are you allowed to support a particular campaign? Of course you can, but it needs to be done within these guidelines. In particular, the support you provide needs to done off the clock, without using K-State Research and Extension resources, and without your association to K-State Research and Extension.
Those are the rules, and there are often other things to consider that rules do not cover. A public servant is a unique position in many ways but especially politics. Let’s say that a county commissioner drives past your house every day on her way to work. During the election, she saw a sign in your yard supporting the other candidate running for her commissioner slot. I would like to think that most politicians would not be vindictive, but politicians are people and, as such, have all of our human failings. Giving your first report to the county commissioners may be a little awkward.
There is an old adage that you should never discuss religion or politics in the workplace. There are probably people in your department, center, or local unit office that may have very different political perspectives than your own. While our Navigating Difference training enforces that we should appreciate all forms of difference, sometimes differences in political opinions are difficult to tolerate – let alone appreciate. From that perspective, is it worth disrupting the work climate in a department, center, or office to engage in and try to win a political debate with a colleague? I ask that you consider how such a debate will enable us to further our ability to better meet the educational needs of the people and communities of Kansas before engaging in such a debate. If the answer is that such a debate will not better our ability to achieve our mission, why engage in it?
No one is saying that we should not have political opinions. Everyone needs to consider where they are situated in the political world. Everyone who is legally permitted to vote needs to do so. But, as an Extension professional, do not let your political opinions and activities carry over into your professional life and workplace.