Summary of Political Policies Affecting Student Organizations
The following compilation of policies affects Student Organizations wishing to engage in political actions. If at any time an organization is unsure of compliance with these policies, please contact the Center for Leadership and Involvement (608-263-0365), Associated Students of Madison (608-265-2272), or the UW-Madison Office of Legal Affairs (608) 263-7400.
Political campaign activity: Political campaign activity includes solicitation of campaign contributions; service in furtherance of candidates, political parties, and political action committees; advocating a particular position on a referendum; and also promoting action on issues which have become highly identified as dividing issues between candidates for public office at the local, state, or federal level.
Political event: a political event includes, but is not limited to, a program, debate, or public forum featuring candidates for public office or political campaign issues.
Political fundraising: an event or activity during which individuals or groups are asked to contribute to a political candidate, party, or committee.
Political Campaign Activity
As a private citizen, you and your organization are free to engage in political activities on your own time and with your own resources. You may not use university resources to engage in political campaign activities at any time. University resources include, but are not limited to:
- UW–Madison logos and trademarks
- Office supplies provided by UW–Madison
- UW–Madison owned photocopiers
- UW–Madison telephones and telephone lines
- UW–Madison websites
- UW–Madison facilities
As a Registered Student Organization you are permitted to engage in political campaign activity on campus, so long as you do so in public areas (subject to time, place, and manner limitations), or in a location that has been approved by the University for such activity.
Political Events on Campus
Political events may be sponsored by registered student organizations (RSOs) under certain circumstances. Student groups wishing to organize such events should contact the appropriate building manager. Building Manager information is available through the Physical Plant website, http://www.physicalplant.wisc.edu/. On this website, login using your NetID, then hit the "Buildings" link (top of page). Buildings can be searched alphabetically; managers are listed for each building. Check with Building Manager to ensure compliance with UW System policies on use of university facilities (Wis. Admin. Code § U WS 21.03) and applicable policies of the specific building in use.
RSOs are encouraged to arrange non-partisan events such as campus tours for legislators and candidates, as well as to sponsor forums in which political figures or candidates may debate one another.
RSOs may host non-partisan events to encourage voter education and participation, such as candidate forums and voter registration efforts. These activities must be non-partisan for the sole purpose of voter education.
If candidates are invited on campus, all legally qualified candidates must be invited and given an equal opportunity to speak and participate. Permissible activities include speeches, question-and-answer sessions, debates, or similar activities. A statement should be given that the university does not endorse nor oppose any of the candidates. For further details about additional rules for campus, consult UW-Madison Facilities Use Policies and Guidelines, Policy P-6 .
State law strictly prohibits the use of state-owned buildings for political fundraising. In accordance with UW System Financial and Administrative Policies (F50) and consistent with campaign finance law, student groups may not use segregated fees to make direct gifts, contributions, or donations to political campaigns or candidates.
Use of Segregated fees for posters, ads, or t-shirts
Student organizations may use segregated fees to support their own expressive activities and views on public policy issues and other interests, as long as the item could not be considered a gift, contribution or donation to a campaign or candidate.
Examples of general acceptable items are posters, ads, and t-shirts. Questions about appropriate uses of segregated fees can be directed to the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) Funding Advisor (608) 890-0270.
Urging Students to Vote
Student organizations are encouraged to help educate and inform students about upcoming elections, including urging students to exercise their right to vote. Student organizations are also free to express their views about the parties and candidates, and to urge voting for particular parties or candidates, and to sponsor events for candidates so long as they comply with rules governing the use of university facilities.
Candidates and volunteers are subject to policies restricting canvassing in the residence halls. Currently all forms of political canvassing in the residence halls are prohibited. For more information, visit https://www.housing.wisc.edu/residencehalls-life-expectations.htm.
Residence hall organizations and registered student organizations may request the use of an information table to pass out literature to students.
Chalking may be used on University sidewalks; however, DO NOT use paint, oil-based chalk, indelible markers or spray chalk. Only chalk on flat services that are regularly exposed to rain; DO NOT chalk on streets, vertical services, or under covered locations.
For more information on University Guidelines:
For more information on Facility Use Guidelines:
In addition please note: If your organization holds federal tax-exempt status, your organization may be subject to additional restrictions on political activity.