Engaging with policymakers as a U clinician or scholar

University of Utah employees are required to comply with Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive order and the Board of Regents policy on “legislative communications.” In general, the executive order and Regents’ policy prohibit university employees, while acting in their official capacities, from engaging in “legislative communications” (i.e., communications with a state legislator regarding the passage or defeat of a specific bill, resolution, amendment or other matter pending before the Utah Legislature). The university president may authorize employees to engage in legislative communications for the limited purpose of explaining technical concepts or providing subject-matter expertise.

Gov. Herbert’s executive order and the Regents’ policy do not prohibit university employees from speaking on matters of public concern as private citizens on their own time and with their own resources (e.g., personal email instead of UMail; personal letterhead instead of university letterhead; etc.).

Here are some general guidelines to support you as a patient advocate or scholar engaged in policy-related research:

  1. “Legislative communications” does not include testifying before a legislative body, such as a legislative committee or a legislative task force, or answering legislators’ questions. Therefore, if a legislator asks you to attend a legislative committee meeting to share your expertise on a particular bill, you may do that. However, when you share your expertise, it is important that you do not speak, or otherwise act, on behalf of the University of Utah, unless university administrators have given you permission to do so. See guidelines No. 3 and 4 below.
  2. It is good practice to notify the University of Utah’s Office of Government Relations when policymakers request information from you or ask you to testify. They can offer guidance on whether the university has an official position on a bill; how to provide information as a neutral expert without inadvertently suggesting that the university is taking an official position on a bill; etc.
  3. When engaging policymakers as a private citizen, remember the following:
    1. Do so on your own time.
    2. Use your own resources (e.g., personal email instead of UMail; personal letterhead instead of university letterhead; etc.).
    3. Always make an appropriate disclaimer (e.g., “I am John Smith; I am a Ph.D. trained researcher at the University of Utah in the Department of OBGYN, but I am speaking on my personal behalf and not on behalf of the university.”).
  4. If there is an issue that you believe the University of Utah should take a position on, or if you want to speak or act on behalf of the university, you are required to obtain the approval of university administrators, including your department chair, dean, cognizant senior vice president and Vice President for Government Relations Jason Perry who consult with President Ruth Watkins and the executive leadership team to make a decision.

Questions may be directed to the Office of Government Relations and the Office of General Counsel.