In creating this document, the Technology Steering Committee (TSC) at Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) is responding to a process in place or in progress in colleges and universities across the country and throughout the world. As academic institutions provide faculty, students, staff and administrative personnel access to computers and the Internet for research and scholarly pursuits as well as administrative data processing, there is a heightened awareness on college campuses that, with this tool for enhanced research and communication, come concerns about new responsibilities for users and new risks for institutions.
Even as the Internet affords unlimited opportunity for research at one’s desktop, it also affords opportunity and anonymity for those who choose to use the electronic environment for unethical purposes. As the Internet provider for students and employees, MMC, like other colleges and universities, must be concerned with these issues, not only for the greater good of the College community but, in addition, because an institution like ours risks potential civil liability for abuses that occur over its network. Thus, MMC must balance the interests of the College community to receive and disseminate information freely with a need to protect the rights of its constituents and others (e.g. copyright owners), while complying with rapidly developing legal requirements.
Therefore, the Technology Steering Committee has determined the need to generate this document, which provides “Guidelines for Appropriate Use of Technology at MMC.” We, the members of TSC, have drawn heavily on a current text entitled “Computer and Internet Use on Campus,” by Constance S. Hawke, senior special assistant to the president of Kent State University in Ohio. Ms. Hawke has been a practicing attorney for more than twenty years and an adjunct professor of education and business law courses. The text, published in 2001, was reviewed in “Change” (May-June 2003 issue), a publication of the American Association of Higher Education. Hence, we felt the text was current and endorsed by one of the leading professional associations for higher education in the U.S.
The guidelines listed below have been generated by TSC after close consultation with the text described above, “Computer and Internet Use on Campus,” as well as discussion at a faculty forum at MMC.
- Since MMC e-mail is an official means of communication, students, faculty, and staff should have an MMC e-mail account and check their MMC e-mail often to keep current with news, events, and opportunities at MMC.
- Those conducting research on the Internet should learn how to evaluate sources and sites and should take care to cite Internet sources carefully in essays and other written work. Failure to do so is plagiarism, an act of academic dishonesty. Acts of plagiarism have serious consequences — as outlined in the Student Handbook. Faculty are encouraged to instruct their students in the process of proper documentation and are encouraged to consult www.turnitin.com, a service MMC subscribes to which provides the source of any suspected plagiarized phrases, sentences, or documents.
- All users should be respectful of the protection provided by the copyright laws, and should refrain from transferring copyrighted or licensed software or other materials and from making illegal copies of copyrighted materials.
- All users should be aware that space on MMC e-mail servers is limited; thus, users need to perform routine maintenance to their “inbox” by deleting or archiving e-mail messages regularly.
Free Speech in Cyberspace
College campuses like MMC take pride in providing an environment for free speech. However, “college administrators are also charged with protecting the rights of others in the university community by maintaining an atmosphere in which insulting, obscene, or harassing speech is prohibited. The failure to do so can result in potential legal liability as well as negative publicity for the institution” (Hawke, 42). For the protection of all constituents of MMC, the following guidelines apply for e-mail sent on the MMC network:
- Using foul or obscene language, posting obnoxious or inappropriate announcements, or making defamatory statements is not acceptable.
- Sending “chain letter,” “spam” or “broadcast” messages to lists or individuals, and other types of similar use, which would cause network congestion or otherwise interfere with the work of others is not acceptable.
- Performing repeated, unsolicited and unwanted communication of an intrusive nature, for example, continuing to send e-mail messages to an individual after being asked to stop is unacceptable.
- All responsibility for statements made in public computer-mediated communication rests with the individual posting the statements. Statements do not represent the opinions of the supervisor or employer of that person or anyone involved with the networks that comprise the MMC network.
- At a minimum, users will respect the privacy of other users and employ appropriate standards of civility when using electronic systems to communicate with other individuals.
- MMC provides to its faculty, staff and students the capacity to access the Internet and to engage in various kinds of communication that are mediated by computers. This includes the use of bulletin boards, computer lists, e-mail, and computer servers that provide the basis for such communication. MMC does not undertake any responsibility to review the contents of messages sent and received or the use of the Internet, but, if an abuse or a violation of law or College policy is identified, MMC may take steps to intercept or remove the message, and may remove access by the user.
Privacy Issues for Users
MMC operates under the premise that the user of any computer system under a valid user ID and password is one and the same as the individual originally given that user ID. It is in everyone’s interest not to disclose one’s user ID and password because that could pose a risk to one’s privacy.
All MMC users should be aware that “the use of campus computing networks is not completely private. The normal operation and maintenance of a system requires backup and caching of data, logging activity, and other legitimate reasons for monitoring. Users should be made aware that the institution occasionally monitors activity related to the rendition of network service” (Hawke 115). Typically, “a user’s account may be subject to monitoring … when the system administrator has reasonable cause to believe that the user is violating the acceptable use policy (e.g., on notification of alleged copyright infringement or defamation). Users should also be aware that their communications posted to newsgroups are accessible to the network administrator as well as to most Internet users” (Hawke 116).
Constance Hawke concludes with a candid assessment of the privacy issue: “The very nature of cyberspace defies constraints of time and space. It is undisputed that, once connected to the Internet, a network’s system will generally be available to anyone with a computer and a modem anywhere in the world. A provider of Internet access will have minimal control over those who access its system; similarly, a user will have little control over who views his or her communication” (Hawke 119).
In conclusion, TSC and MMC Network System Administrators recommend common sense and discretion on the part of all users in the Community. Free access to the Internet from campus computers is a privilege and we all need to appreciate that opportunity and use it with care and respect for all other users.
November 1, 2003