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NISG clarifies policy on candidates

KELSEY CHIDLEY, Staff Writer

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College campuses attract a variety of speakers each year. At public universities, there are specific regulations in place regarding inviting and hosting political candidates. Recently, there was some confusion at UNI over the implementation of these regulations.

“Student organizations outside of Northern Iowa Student Government are allowed to host political candidates,” said Maggie Miller, Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) director of governmental relations. “We do have policies that are in accordance with state and federal laws at the university about the place and manner that those are hosted, and those are very broad policies. So, there was a little bit of miscommunication on that.”

According to Miller, some of the misinformation arose from difficulties in determining who qualified as a university representative.

“Is that a faculty member, is that a student, is that someone who’s saying on behalf of the  Northern Iowa Democrats (NI Democrats) of the University of Northern Iowa?” Miller said. “Where do we draw the line of what a university representative is?”

Miller stated that NISG worked closely with the Office of University Council, which provides legal advice for UNI, to clarify regulations on inviting political candidates to speak on campus. The group decided that students and student organizations do not represent the entire university, so it is within their rights to invite candidates of any political affiliation.

The NI Democrats stated that NISG members had recently confronted themin regards to their activities regarding inviting political candidates to campus. The NI Democrats explained that upper cabinet directors and senators had told them that inviting only specific candidates to campus would violate university and federal policies, and that the organization would legally have to invite all candidates running for the office in question. The NI Democrats said that they were not told exactly which policies they were violating.

“It’s just important to us to give students an opportunity to dig in, ask hard questions of candidates, hold candidates accountable and just do all of those things that have to do with being an active and educated voter,” said Danielle Templeton, recruitment director of the NI Democrats.

Later, Miller stated that the initial information given to the organization had been passed down from university administrators.

“It was never intended to be malicious, or anything like that,” Miller said. “Truly, sometimes things get miscommunicated; people are people.”

The NI Democrats stated that bringing candidates to campus is important to their organization and to the entire community because it makes students more likely to vote and participate in politics.

“These candidates could very well be the next House member, the next Senate member, and so we bring those members onto campus all the time,” said Natalie Dean, president of the NI Democrats. “We want people to be informed about who could be representing them in two years.”

Another student organization greatly affected by these policies are the UNI College Republicans, who stressed the importance of bringing a broad spectrum of viewpoints to campus.

“It definitely is super important that everyone has an equal opportunity to do so, just so everybody has an equal opportunity to have their voice and their opinions,” said Regan Stevens, president of UNI College Republicans.

Unlike members of other student organizations, NISG members are considered university representatives, so they cannot invite candidates of any political party to campus.

“It is in Northern Iowa Student Government’s mission to remain nonpartisan and unbiased,” Miller said. “Senators are not allowed to bring candidates to campus, as part of their NISG role.”

Miller also indicated that due to the nonpartisan nature of NISG, candidates still have to follow certain regulations, no matter how they were brought to campus.

“You can’t be bringing them into spaces like [the NISG office] — it’s a nonpartisan space — we have to follow the Hatch Act,” Miller said. “We are paid by the university; we have to follow state and federal regulations as they apply to us.”

Such regulations have affected student organizations in other ways too. Since the NI Democrats are a partisan organization, the organization could not legally send a mass email to the student body regarding the satellite voting location that they secured this semester in Maucker Union, where students could vote early for Cedar Falls city candidates.

According to Miller, no policies were changed by the discussion between University Council, NISG and other representatives; it was simply a clarification of existing regulations.

“I’d encourage anybody wanting to bring a political candidate to campus to make sure that they go through the proper channels of communicating with the president’s office, making sure that everything’s set with them,” Miller said.

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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa
NISG clarifies policy on candidates