Rebecca Crown Center

Under the direct supervision of the University President, the Office of Government Relations staff serves as the liaison to officials and agencies of the U.S. government, State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Cook County. The Office coordinates governmental policy development within Northwestern and works to promote the University as a resource to government officials as one means of fulfilling the University's societal obligations as a tax exempt organization. The Northwestern Government Relations staff also represents the University to membership organizations, associations, consortia, and alliances with whom Northwestern has common interests.

All University Government Relations initiatives are established annually by the University President after consultation with the provost, deans, and senior staff.


The changed political climate in Washington, D.C. has caused a great deal of concern in the University community.  Recent actions and statements by national leaders on such topics as immigration, the environment and federal research funding have prompted faculty and staff members to ask how they can voice support for the nation's academic enterprise among elected leaders.  Northwestern encourage civic and political engagment by all members of the University community and offers the following as guidance for those of you who wish to contact government officials.

Grass Roots Lobbying and Personal Activism

The Government Relations office has observed a substantial increase this year in “grass roots”- or indirect - lobbying by professional organizations, scientific societies and other groups.  These organizations are asking members to sign petitions, write letters and attend events to communicate concern to federal policymakers on a wide range of issues, including the responsible use of science in public policy, the need for international cooperation in science and technology and the need to protect federal funding across all disciplines of science, arts and the humanities.

  • Signing Petitions and Group Letters.  You may participate in grass-roots lobbying campaigns by signing on to petitions and group letters, and you may give your title and University affiliation as credentials, so long as you are not representing your views as that of Northwestern University.
  • Writing letters or emails. Personal letters to your own elected legislators weigh most heavily with legislative offices, as they represent the views of actual voters.  Emails are valued almost as highly and are often read by the same staff.
  • Using University resources.  University resources, including letterhead and email accounts, should not be used for personal correspondence with government officials.  This restriction, however, would not apply if you are a faculty member writing on a subject matter directly related to your teaching or research.  As suggested in the Academic Freedom section of the Faculty Handbook (, faculty members should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
  • Participating in Lobbying or Advocacy Days.  Many associations and professional societies sponsor conferences or meetings in Washington (or Springfield) that feature meetings with legislators or other government officials.  Please be aware that meeting with elected officials could constitute direct lobbying, which is a restricted activity.  Please contact the Government Relations office if you are planning to meet with government officials in Washington or Springfield (

Restrictions on Direct Lobbying

Federal tax law states that "no substantial part" of a tax-exempt organizations’ activities may be devoted to lobbying.  However, large nonprofits like universities may lawfully expend up to $1 million dollars per year under the federal tax law’s so-called "expenditure" test.  This expenditure limit applies to lobbying at all levels of government and must include all lobbying activities of the University’s government-relations staff, its retained lobbyists and its membership organizations.  

In Washington, Northwestern University maintains a federal-relations office, retains a consulting lobbying firm and is an active participant in the large and well-organized network of higher education organizations that includes the Association of American Universities (AAU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and many other specialized organizations for business officers and tax-exempt organizations, as well as groups for individual schools or disciplines such as United for Medical Research (UMR) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  These organizations and their institutional members work closely together to monitor and impact legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of higher education and research.

The $1 million expenditure limit, when combined with Northwestern’s legal obligation to report all lobbying expenses (Northwestern is subject to the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act), requires that the University monitor lobbying activities of staff and faculty in order to report accurately in observance of tax and lobbying laws.  The University’s full policy on lobbying and communications with government officials can be found online ( The practical implications of this policy are that:

  • Faculty and staff should notify the Government Relations office before contacting, or responding to, government officials.  Although many of these communications do not constitute lobbying, they should be vetted with Government Relations to determine if reporting is required.
  • Faculty and staff can get assistance from the Government Relations office in inviting government officials to campus for speeches or appearances at special events.
  • Faculty and staff should notify the Government Relations office of planned meetings with government officials, including invitations for testimony before legislative or administrative panels.  The Government Relations office can help find opportunities for testimony.
  • Faculty and staff can get updated information from the Government Relations office on current legislative or regulatory matters affecting higher education.

New Policy

Faculty and staff must consult with the Office of Government Relations prior to initiating contact with federal, state, or local elected officials and must report and account for legislative and/or lobbying activities.

Read the full policy

Reporting Instructions and Forms

If you have any questions, please e-mail:

Ben-Gurion University and NU to Collaborate on Water Research


On Monday, September 11, 2017, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Northwestern University signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on water research.  Attending the MOU signing was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Northwestern Professor Aaron Packman, Associate Vice-President of Research Fruma Yehiely, and the Consul General for Israel to the Midwest Aviv Ezra, along with representatives from Ben-Gurion University.

2017 NIST Fellows Participate at Annual SURF on the Hill Day with Rep. Jan Schakowsky


Northwestern students Thomas Wu, Shaleahk Wilson, Katherine Su and Daniel Ng (shown here with U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky) served in the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program in 2017.

The 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows Meet Mayor Rahm Emanuel

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The 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows pose for a photo with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at City Hall on June 26, 2017.

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Titos Munhequete from Mozambique exchanges a fist bump with Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the Mayor's meeting with the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows on June 26, 2017.

Rep. Gabel Visits NU Men's Basketball Team


On June 7, 2017, State Representative Robyn Gabel met with Coach Collins and members of the 2016-17 men's basketball team to present a State of Illinois resolution congratulating the team on receiving their first invitation to compete in the 2017 NCAA championship tournament.

In this picture, from L-to-R: Scottie Lindsay, Gavin Skelly, Representative Robyn Gabel, Coach Chris Collins, and Nathan Taphorn.

2017 Truman Scholarship Nominees visit Springfield

2017 Truman

Truman Scholarship nominees meet with State Senator Jacqueline Collins in Springfield after attending the Governor’s State of the State Address.

In the picture from left to right: NU State Relations Director Dave Davis, Imani Wilson, Kathleen Nganga, Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Collins, Kevin Corkran, Olyvia Chinchilla, and Matthew Guzman.

State of LGBT Health Symposium at Northwestern

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State Representative Greg Harris, Dr. Karen Parker (Director, Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office at National Institutes of Health), and Dr. Brian Mustanski (Director, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Well-Being) pose for a photo before the start of the State of LGBT Health Symposium on August 18, 2016. (Photo credit: Randy Belice for Northwestern Medicine)

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State Representative Greg Harris presented the welcome address at the State of LGBT Health Symposium. He spoke about the importance of cultually-competent health care delivery at the event.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky meets 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows at Northwestern

Mandela Fellows

The 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows pose with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky after her speech about leadership and public service on June 28, 2016. 

Asst. Professor James Rondinelli Addresses Need For Federal Research Funding at Washington, DC Roundtable Event

Rondinelli DC

On May 5, 2016 Assistant Professor James Rondinelli took part in a media roundtable event in Washington, DC to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing emerging national leaders in science and engineering. The event included 11 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Rondinelli addressed the importance of federal funding to his research career and the students he now trains. Link to the full story.

Alderman Hopkins Honors Feinberg Students for Life-Saving Actions

Hopkins Feinberg

At a May 9, 2016 meeting of the Lake Shore Park Advisory Council, City of Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins presents Feinberg medical students with a City Council Resolution recognizing their life-saving actions to save a Streeterville resident who had suffered a heart attack while jogging in the park. Read the full story here.

In the picture from L-to-R:  Alderman Brian Hopkins, Krish Suresh, Sneha Goswami, Jessica Quaggin-Smith, Carla Berkowitz, and Max Kazer. 

2016 Truman Scholarship Nominees Visit Springfield


Northwestern University students, Catherine Sobilo, Hayeon Kim, Kelsey Pukelis, and Christina Cilento meet with State Senator Napoleon Harris III following the Governor's State of the State Address in Springfield, IL on January 27, 2016.

Senator Durbin Announces $2 Billion NIH Increase

Durbin Visit

Dr. Todd Kuiken (left), Professor Milan Mrksich, Dean Eric Nelson, and Associate Professor Emily Rogalski listen as U.S. Senator Dick Durbin announced a $2 billion dollar increase in the NIH budget for FY2016. Read the full story here.

Interview of Dr. Milan Mrksich

On July 29, 2014, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky interviewed Dr. Milan Mrksich, Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Cell and Molecular Biology, in her Congressional office.  Professor Mrksich and the Congresswoman discussed his research in the area of nanotechnology, challenges to technology transfer, and the future directions of nanotechnology research.

Evanston Day in Springfield Video

On February 26, 2014, the City of Evanston and Northwestern University hosted their 5th Annual "Evanston Day in Springfield" event. Watch the video here!