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U of I Graduate Employees’ Organization Contests State Ethics Policy, Issues Statement on Free Speech, Academic Freedom

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, October 3?Responding to the state policy that prohibits state employees from voicing their political affiliations, the University of Illinois Graduate Employees? Organization (GEO) issued a statement demanding protection under the First Amendment.
-On September 18th, University staff and faculty received an email memorandum entitled ?Prohibited Political Activity.? The document explains that activities such as attending rallies or displaying a partisan button or bumper sticker on University property are off limits to state employees. Under this rule, a faculty or staff member could not use his or her off-work time to attend a political rally on campus. While on campus, he or she would also have to remove any political bumper stickers or buttons from clothing and vehicles.
In a first step to protect its constituents from unconstitutional regulation, the University of Illinois GEO proposed a written statement regarding the state policy during its October 1st general membership meeting. The present membership unanimously endorsed the statement, which condemns the state and University?s disregard for the First Amendment:
“The GEO condemns the U of I’s restrictions on its members’ speech and political activity, as expressed in a mass email from the Ethics Office on September 18. The GEO demands that the University respect and support the free speech rights of all members of the University community, including the right to participate in political activities on public University spaces, and the right to wear clothing or accessories that promote a political viewpoint or candidate.”
University President Joseph White has thus far assured the University community that the state policy will be enforced with ?common sense.? The GEO membership, however, additionally endorsed a statement authored by the American Association of University Professors that ?calls on President White to repudiate this policy and withdraw it immediately.?
For more information about the Graduate Employees? Organization, visit uigeo.org, or contact publicity director, Michael Simeone, at 217 377 0850. For further information regarding the statement issued by the AAUP, visit University Ethics and Political Campaigning