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Information Tech

Birmingham-Southern College Policy on the Legal and Ethical Use of Technology Resources, Electronic Mail and the Internet


Birmingham-Southern College recognizes the role of information and technology in the academic community and in the larger society. It is the policy of the College to provide all students, faculty and staff with access to a variety of technology resources and to provide opportunities for all members of the College community to learn to utilize these resources effectively and efficiently. In return, the College expects that technology will be used in legally and ethically appropriate ways, consistent with the Mission Statement of the College. This document explains and defines policies for use of technology resources of the College.

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General Policy Statement

The primary aim of the College in providing information and technology resources is to support the educational, instructional, and administrative endeavors of the students, faculty, and staff of the College. It is the intent of the College that all technology resources will be used in accordance with established policies of the College and with any and all local, state, and federal laws, and/or guidelines governing the use of technology and its component parts. Implicit in this is the expectation that all students, faculty, and staff will utilize the technology resources of the College so as not to waste them, abuse them, or interfere with or cause harm to other individuals, institutions, or companies. As is the case with most community resources or facilities, users are expected to balance their own needs against the needs and expectations of other users.

As an academic community, the faculty, students, and staff of Birmingham-Southern College honor intellectual property, respect the privacy of data, and recognize the rights of others. Individuals who access College computing resources incur the responsibility to use those resources in an ethical manner. This policy (or electronic code of ethics) requires all computing activities performed on College equipment to be legal and ethical. The policy is based on adherence to U.S. copyright laws and respect for intellectual labor and creativity as vital elements of the academic enterprise.

Abuse of computing privileges is subject to disciplinary action which may include the loss of computing privileges and other disciplinary sanctions. Flagrant student offenses may be reported to the Honor Council, faculty offenses to the Provost, and staff offenses to the Director of Human Resources. An abuser of the College's computing resources may also be liable for civil or criminal prosecution. It should be understood that nothing in these guidelines precludes enforcement under the laws and regulation of the State of Alabama, any municipality or county therein, and/or the United States of America.

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Access to College Technologies

The electronic resources and technologies of the College are intended for the use of students, faculty, and staff of the College. Use of such resources is limited to these members of the College community. Authorized users are assigned user accounts and passwords by the Department of Information Technology (helpdesk@bsc.edu). Individuals may only use accounts, files, software, and computer resources that are assigned to them under their user accounts. Individual members of the College community are expected to take all reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorized access to files and data and any other unauthorized usage within and outside the College.

It shall be considered a violation of this policy and/or of the BSC Honor Code to:

  1. Use someone else's password or log in to someone else's account without authorization, except as may be required for management of system resources.
  2. Attempt to gain access to computing privileges or resources for which you are not authorized or via means not authorized.
  3. Give others access (via password or other means) to computing resources to which they are not entitled.
  4. Use a system for unauthorized purposes, such as advertising for a commercial organization or running a business.
  5. Read, execute, modify, or delete any file belonging to someone else without explicit permission from the owner, even if the file is unprotected.
  6. Deliberately destroy, damage, or deface hardware (including, but not limited to: system unit, monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and cabling.)
  7. Deliberately introduce worms, viruses, or other software which is designed to damage or destroy software (including, but not limited to: applications, operating system, files, etc.)
  8. Move or install hardware or software without authorization.
  9. Create, display or transmit harrassing, libelous, or threatening messages or materials on the College's computer equipment.
  10. Attempt to crash a system, or exploit weaknesses in security.
  11. Make unauthorized copies of software that is copyrighted.
  12. Misuse technology resources in any way that materially impacts on the efficacy of use for others.
  13. Modify technology resources, utilities, and/or configurations, or to change the restrictions associated with their accounts, or attempt to breach any technology resources security system, whether with or without malicious intent.

The appropriate system administrator may remove or alter as necessary user files that threaten to interfere with the operation of the system or as needed for system maintenance. The system administrator should make every effort to notify the user prior to such action to give the user opportunity to remove such files him/herself. It is recognized that there may be special cases where the threat to the efficacy of system resources is so immediate that prior notification is not possible.

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Published material is protected by copyright law unless it has been placed in the public domain. The owner of a copyright holds exclusive right to the reproduction and distribution of the copyrighted work. Duplication of any copyrighted material is prohibited unless specifically allowed for in a license agreement. Unauthorized copying of copyrighted material is illegal and punishable under federal law.

Respect for the intellectual work and property of others has traditionally been essential to the mission of educational institutions. As members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of ideas. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone the unauthorized copying or distribution of protected materials, including software, media, and code.

Only authorized personnel may sign license agreements. Questions about site licenses should be directed to the Information Technology helpdesk.

  1. Illegal copies of copyrighted software material may not be created or used on College equipment, including the LAN.
  2. Individuals are expected to report any violations of this policy and/or problems with the security of any technology resources to the Department of Information Technology (helpdesk@bsc.edu) or the IT Faculty Advisory Committee.

Users should assume all materials on the web are copyrighted unless there is a waiver or disclaimer that is clearly stated by the owner. Copyrighted works on a web page cannot be used without express permission of the copyright owner. Copyright works may include: artwork, articles, cartoons, photographs, music, videos, films, and graphics scanned or used from published works or web sites. It is illegal under Federal law (Title 17 of the US Code, and more recently the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 105 PL 304) to distribute copyrighted media without a license to do so from the copyright holder. Furthermore, it is a violation of College policy to use the campus network for illegal activities, or in ways that consume capacity and services needed for instruction, research, and other core purposes.

Shareware, or "user-supported" software, is copyrighted software that the developer encourages you to copy and distribute to others. This permission is explicitly stated in the documentation or displayed on the computer screen. The developer of shareware generally asks for a small donation or registration fee if you like the software and plan to use it. By registering, you may receive further documentation, updates, and enhancements. You are also supporting future software development.

Public Domain Software is that software that has been dedicated by the authors to the public domain, which means that the software is not subject to any copyright restrictions. It can be copied and shared freely. Before copying or distributing software that is not explicitly in the public domain, check with the Department of Information Technology (helpdesk@bsc.edu)

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Electronic Mail

As an academic institution, the College honors the principles of individual privacy. These principles extend to privacy of electronic communication. It is expected that individuals who are given access to College computing resources will be responsible in the ethical use of those resources.

The Computer Usage Policies in the Faculty, Staff, and Student Handbooks require all computing activities performed on College equipment to be legal and ethical.

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A. General Policies

The following guidelines express the essence of the usage policies for electronic mail. Those who violate any of these policies may be subject to disciplinary action through existing structures for faculty, students, and staff.

It is a violation of the Birmingham-Southern College Computer Usage Policies for Electronic Mail to:

  1. Forge a signature on electronic mail without consent.
  2. Send abusive or threatening mail to harass an individual. This includes sexual, ethnic, religious, racial, or other harassment. Threats to personal safety will be reported to Campus Security.
  3. Send or forward chain letters and/or use the e-mail system for personal advertisements.
  4. Deliberately flood a user's mailbox with mail.
  5. Send mail that is deliberately designed to interfere with proper mail delivery and access.
  6. Attempt to gain access to another person's mail files without his/her consent.
  7. Deliberately or repeatedly introduce a worm or virus into the College's network environment.

Please refer to Appendix A for E-mail etiquette guidelines.

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B. Guidelines for Operators, Postmasters, Systems Administrators

Computer systems automatically forward all undeliverable mail to the designated "postmaster." This is a standard feature of mail systems in order to provide the equivalent of the "dead letter" office. When possible, the postmaster will forward mail (from the dead letter office) to one or both of the involved parties.

It is a violation of the BSC Computer Usage Policies for Electronic Mail to:

  1. Access more of the undelivered mail message body than is necessary to perform postmaster responsibilities.
  2. Retain, forward, or discuss undelivered mail with others.
  3. Include the message body of mail in statistical analysis. As part of system management, certain programs may gather statistics on mail usage. These statistics may include the address of the sender, the recipient, length of the message, and date.
  4. Read, forward, or discuss backup mail files. Mail files may be copied as a routine aspect of system backups. This is an automatic process that does not involve any human reading of the files copied. Furthermore, some backups are archived for long-term storage. Such practices are NOT considered a violation of privacy.

Even with proper permission, messages contained within files shall only be read to the extent needed to assist the user involved.

If a system administrator or postmaster of the BSC System, in the performance of normal duties, comes upon messages whose content are clearly illegal, the computer usage policies extend the right and responsibility to report these messages to the appropriate campus committee or to the Campus Security Office. Examples might include messages containing illegally obtained credit card numbers, telephone authorization codes, grade reports, criminal conspiracy, or similar items. Such items might be discovered as part of user consultation, dead-letter processing, or other tasks. Random mail browsing of electronic or voice communications shall always be in violation of the BSC Electronic Mail Computer Usage Policies and is never authorized.

A person's user-name and e-mail address are considered to be directory information that can be given to other individuals. This information can be withheld by contacting the Office of Records and Research. User-names and e-mail addresses will not be distributed for purposes of mass mailing or advertising.

The College will seek to provide a reasonable amount of privacy of electronic mail messages. However, e-mail users should be aware that there is no such thing as a fully confidential e-mail transmission. Sensitive, private messages should not be sent via e-mail. Moreover, violations of the College computer usage policies may jeopardize the guarantee of privacy.

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The College provides access to the Internet for students, faculty, and staff of the College to further its educational goals and to facilitate the instructional and administrative process. Individuals accessing the Internet through the College facilities are expected to do so in a responsible and ethical manner and to conform to all established policies. Inappropriate use includes, but is not limited to: commercial activities; creating, displaying, or transmitting threatening, obscene, or harassing language and/or materials; copyright and licensing violations; violation of personal privacy; and acts in violation of federal or state laws.

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By using Birmingham-Southern College computing and network resources, each user implicitly accepts all stipulations in this policy and accepts full responsibility for his or /her use and/or misuse of these resources. The College considers each user to be ultimately responsible for his or /her actions, and does not accept liability for the individual. Furthermore, although a reasonable and conscientious effort is made to backup critical data on College resources for disaster recovery purposes, each user is ultimately responsible for backing up his or /her own personal data.

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Appendix A

E-mail Etiquette Guidelines

  1. To a void introducing worms or viruses into the College's network environment, do not open any attachments with the following extensions: .pif, .exe, .lnk, .vbs, .com, and .bat.
  2. Distribute e-mail only to those individuals or groups that have a known interest in a topic.
  3. Limit announcements of College events to one per event; however, one brief reminder may be appropriate.
  4. Do not use e-mail for personal advertisements. Such use is inappropriate and should be directed through other communication means, e.g. Monday Morning, Student Link, or the College Bulletin Board.
  5. Check e-mail daily and delete or store read messages immediately, since they take up disk storage. Mail messages can be downloaded, printed, or saved as disk files.
  6. Use descriptive subject headings. This makes it easier for someone to decide whether to read the message.
  7. Try to keep messages succinct and to the point.
  8. When responding to a message, include in the response a summary of the original message to give some indication of the content of the original message. Summarization may be best done by including appropriate quotes from the original message.
  9. Avoid mass mailings to blanket large groups with messages that are of interest to only a few. If you think you have something that needs to reach a large audience, consider the Golden Rule: would you be happy to receive such an unsolicited message?
  10. Take care in responding to mass mailings. Consider carefully whether the response is of interest to the entire group or should be sent to an individual. Mass mailings occur when someone accidentally or thoughtlessly uses the "Reply to all" feature.
  11. Do not engage in "flaming." "Flaming" describes an incessant ranting and raving manner of writing. Be careful about sending mail or replying to a message when angry or upset. Also, remember that there are people on the receiving end of e-mail messages. When using computers to communicate, it is easy to forget that there are people "out there." Emotions can erupt when consideration is not given for the intended audience.
  12. Use upper case sparingly. Many consider capital letters the electronic equivalent of SHOUTING.
  13. Be careful what is said about others. Electronic information can be easily re-transmitted and information intended to be personal can quickly become public.

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Rev. February 13, 2002

Didn't find your answer?
Call the IT helpdesk at 205-226-3033, Monday-Friday 7:30am to 4:00pm
E-mail helpdesk@bsc.edu
Student personal computer support is available through Apogee 24x7 at 1-877-478-8861.