The Institute encourages all students, faculty, staff, and employees to exercise their rights and duties as citizens to participate as individuals in the electoral process. Federal and state laws, however, clearly distinguish between the political activities of individuals and those of tax-exempt institutions such as MIT. The Federal Internal Revenue Code limits a tax-exempt institution's engagement in "substantial efforts to influence legislation" and prohibits it from participation or intervention in any "political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."
The following guidelines are responsive to these provisions of law and are intended to emphasize the role of the individual in the political process. They apply to all individuals associated with the Institute. The interpretation of these guidelines is the responsibility of the Provost, with advice from Institute counsel.
- The Institute may not intervene or participate in any campaign by supporting or opposing a candidate or by taking a position on an issue involved in the campaign for the purpose of assisting or opposing a candidate.
- The Institute's relations with federal, state, and local governments (see Section 12.1 Relations with Government and the Community) at times lead to MIT taking an institutional position regarding legislative or executive action. The President has the authority to determine when such an institutional position will be taken, and in what form. The MIT Washington Office and the Government and Community Relations Office coordinate these activities, and both offices are resources for information and appropriate contacts for requesting that MIT take an institutional position on any governmental action.
- Members of the MIT community should be aware that federal and state laws governing lobbying activities may require them to report their activities. Information concerning these requirements can be obtained from the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) or the Government and Community Relations Office. The OSP home page also contains resource information about these issues https://osp.mit.edu/.
- Sections 12.3 and 12.4 concerning the use of the Institute name and letterhead apply specifically to political activities (including lobbying efforts to influence legislation or regulations) by any member of the MIT community, except in connection with an institutional position taken by MIT. In all other cases, the name of the Institute may not be used on material intended for political purposes, including the solicitation of funds, nor may individuals or organizations use an Institute office as a return mailing address or the Institute mail service for the solicitation of funds or for any other material in connection with a campaign for public office or an attempt to influence legislation or regulations. Similarly, if individuals use their Institute titles in political correspondence or other political material, they should do so for purposes of identification only, and they should make it clear that they are expressing their views as private citizens.
- Institute facilities may be used without charge for student activities concerned with politics and public affairs when the activities will involve members of the MIT community. When Institute facilities or services are made available for activities to organize support for or opposition to a candidate for public office, or to influence legislation or regulations, and individuals from outside the MIT community are the sponsors or are invited to attend or participate, Institute facilities and services may be made available only on the same basis that they are made available to off-campus users for nonpolitical activities, and full payment for the reasonable costs of providing the facilities and services for such use must be made from non-Institute funds.