Loyola Phoenix

Exception Should Be Made for Political Clubs Wishing to Endorse Candidates

Loyola’s Guidelines for Political Activity

In college, students are constantly reminded to exercise their civic duty, engage in society and make their voices heard.

But, sometimes, rules can get in the way.

With the general election quickly approaching, Loyola’s administration reinformed registered student organizations (RSOs) that they are not allowed to endorse candidates.

In its letter “Guidelines for Political Activities for Students, Faculty, and Staff,” Loyola stated that the university is a “501(c)(3) entity,” which is a private, nonprofit tax-exempt institution.

Therefore, Loyola is subject to the rules and regulations enforced by both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that prohibit educational institutions from participating in any political campaigning or partisan political activity.

This is done as a precautionary measure so as to not confuse an RSO’s political stance with Loyola’s.

However, student newspapers can endorse a candidate in an editorial as long as they clearly indicate that their comment is personal and does not reflect the views of the institution, according to the IRS 501(c)(3) guidelines.

So, if The Phoenix can endorse a candidate, why can’t student organizations do the same?

What separates The Phoenix, a student-run newspaper, from other student-run organizations?

The only difference is that the students who chose to belong to those politically active clubs unknowingly joined a category that is strictly regulated by the IRS and FEC.

This year especially, people are urging millennials to take part in this presidential election.

Millennial voter turnout has been low in the past, with only 20 percent of people ages 18 to 29 voting in 2014, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

With 83.1 million people, millennials make up the largest and most diverse generation in the United States, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Preaching, “Your vote counts” and saying, “Register to vote” only does so much if millennials do not act upon their political beliefs.

Those federal guidelines Loyola must follow are implemented to prevent private institutions from raising money to sway the election, not to misguide and discourage college students from expressing their political views.

Uniting behind a common good with such large numbers gives voice and is bound to make a difference.

Loyola offers more than 250 student activities and organizations, meaning there is an abundance of opportunities for these clubs to express their political views. Out of those 250 activities and organizations, Loyola has five clubs that are considered politically active: Loyola
College Democrats, Loyola College Republicans, Students For Constitutional Freedom, Students for Liberty and Inside Government.

These politically active organizations are stuck between a rock and a hard place: They want to fulfill their organization’s objective of expressing their political views while also remaining legally compliant.

By not exempting all student organizations, the IRS and FEC guidelines deny students the chance to endorse a candidate that speaks for the values of their organizations.

If students are allowed to discuss political beliefs on a conversational basis, they should also be allowed the opportunity to express their political views while representing their RSOs.

It seems illogical for university faculty, staff and administrators to encourage transparency, social and political awareness in the classroom, but not allow students to practice those outside of the classroom.

If there is an exception for student newspapers, an exception should be made for student organizations who pride themselves on their political affiliations.

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