To the editor:
You don't have to be the Hugh B. Brown Professor of Law to understand the difference between the right to speak out on an issue, and the use of tax money, resources, facilities, and position to engage in political activity.Late last year, the president of Utah Valley Community College used his position to convene an involuntary assembly of faculty during business hours to harangue them into working against the citizen initiatives.
For some time now, President Chase Peterson reportedly has used university facilities, supplies, and faculty meetings to work against the initiatives. President Stan Cazier of Utah State University has done the same, and according to press reports, even convened a teleconference with extension agents to urge them to work against the initiatives.
Not being an attorney, I am not sure what Utah Code 67-19-19 (1) (b) means when it says: "No officer or employee in career service may engage in any political activity during hours of employment." Indeed, it may not apply to university employees or extension agents at all.
Whether it does or not seems unimportant. What is important is that the use of tax money by public employees to influence political decisions rightly belonging to the people, or the use of position by public employees to impose their political will on others, are actions that are repugnant to most fair-minded people.
Before the recent voter confirmation of tax limitation in California (the citizens of that state seem to like limitation even though Taxpayers for Utah thinks it is ruining their state) the taxpayers had to get a court order prohibiting the use of public funds by "educators" who wanted to remove the limitations.
It was argued that "using the public treasury to mount an election campaign attempting to influence the resolution of issues presents a serious threat to the integrity of the electoral process." The judge in issuing his order seemed to agree. Is such use in Utah less of a threat?
Finally, as relates to the issue of free inquiry at the University of Utah, the actions of Chase Peterson serve as an implied threat to those on the faculty who, in the exercise of their political rights, may want to support the initiatives.
Is it possible that, aside from the people who contact us to report waste and featherbedding at the university but who are afraid to speak out openly, there are no employees who feel strongly in favor of tax limitation?
Or could it be that the environment has been so polluted by administrative coercion that people no longer feel free to express their convictions? Is this what we want in our university?
Tax Limitation Coalition of Utah