Use of university equipment for political campaign prompts policy review at UCA

Legal representatives and department heads at the University of Central Arkansas reviewed university policy with personnel at last week's end, after one employee complained that another used UCA equipment to view and print political campaign material.

 

The infraction, which was admitted to by employee Aaron Knight, occurred in the Office of Institutional Advancement. 


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Jeff Pitchford, vice president for university and government relations, said that Knight, advancement research and communications specialist, has voluntarily worked for a campaign to rededicate a quarter-cent city sales tax.

The campaign, "4 the Love of Conway," culminates Tuesday with an election. 

Knight's actions raised a red flag for Dianna Winters, the advancement office employee who Pitchford said made the complaint against Knight.

Pitchford said Shelly Mehl, vice president of the Office of Institutional Advancement, and also a city alderwoman, did not ask Knight to work on the campaign on university time or equipment; nor did she know that Knight did so.

"Aaron was not directed by Shelly to do that. Shelly said she was not aware that Aaron did it. Also, Aaron said he was not aware of anyone else doing anything similar," said Pitchford.

According to Pitchford, Knight said he used an office computer to access and print voter information obtained from the county clerk's office.

"He opened an Excel document with a list of voter information sent to him from the county clerk. He said he was volunteering on the campaign for the sales tax rededication. While he was at work, he used a UCA computer to open that e-mail and print it out," said Pitchford.

Knight also admitted to opening an e-mail that contained a one-page graphic pertaining to the campaign and printing it, according to Pitchford, to "see how it looked on paper."

Pitchford said that Knight told him he printed just "a few pages" using the school's equipment and time. 

"He admitted to it and was apologetic to the institution," he said.

Jack Gillean, chief of staff at UCA, and Mehl addressed employees Friday afternoon to review the school's policy on university equipment.

"When using university time or equipment, no political activity or use of the equipment for political activity is allowed," said Pitchford.

Pitchford said that employee e-mails out of the office were reviewed, "even those that had been deleted," and that no other infractions could be found. 

Knight is still employed in the office, and Pitchford said he does not believe he is in danger of losing his position at the university. 

As an aside, Pitchford added that university photographer Mike Kemp has taken photographs for the campaign using his own equipment and on his own time.

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