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Friday, June 12, 2009

Gray Anatomy

There really is no exact science to setting a policy. Recently this was demonstrated when administrators from ITS (Joe Hatch and Judi Reiffert), Library Director/Copyright Czar, Diane Graves, and Dean of Policy (me) met to discuss changes in handling the copyright policy. There is some risk in writing about the anatomy of a policy, as usually no one cares about rules until they break them. Note: Days ago I distributed the annual policy report to the University community and one could hear the crickets chirping, it was so quiet. (There were at least a couple of responses to set my heart aflutter. Of course they were things like: "When can I move back in August?" and "Do you know when the bills are being sent?" Things are bad when the best response you receive is from Will Thornton: "What defines a 'small' milk crate?" - related to the balcony policy.)

But here goes. With the IRAA backing off of lawsuits against students, Universities are still not in the clear. Now I don't have a great deal of sympathy for the IRAA. These Hollywood types are mostly Laker fans. I know. Nevertheless, the University has a legal and ethical responsibility to guard against use of the campus network for violations of law. Plus, some of the downloaded material is corrupt and can infect the rest of us.

The rule is that file sharing and illegal downloading are prohibited. How can the University best enforce this? To the credit of Diane Graves, she expressed willingness to meet individually with all students who receive "take down" notices from the RIAA (the notices go straight to her). This is pretty gracious. She says many people simply make mistakes or don't know the law. The University does not have the interest or resources to stalk student and employee computer use to check up on violators. (Though a raucous discussion about professors - at other schools - using school computers to watch porn, did ensue.) Good student conduct is educational and incremental. A student who receives a second take down notice will have to pay a $20 fee to have his or her computer checked to ensure illegal materials are removed and will have to pay $35 for an on-line course called "Cyber Citizenship 100." Yes, there is such a course. Failure to complete these sanctions or subsequent violations result in referral to the Conduct Board.

Fair, measured, clear, and increasingly severe. These are factors that make for good policy. Please share.


The Kemps said...

Is it weird that when I read posts like these I want your job? Keep up the hard work, Dave! :)

willthornton said...

Hey thanks for mentioning my constructive input, I appreciate it. Encouraging dialogue is one of my strengths.

But I have been thinking.

What if someone fashioned a chair out of milk crates, reasonably sized, ambiguously? Would that fall under the chair part of the Balcony Policy or the milk crate part of the policy? Would the student be able to keep and use it because it is a chair, or have to remove it because it is more than the allowed one small milk crate?


Superman said...

I appreciate that you showed concern about the downloading policy of Trinity University.
In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to Richard Stallman's harsh comments about the policy of Trinity when he spoke in Chapman last spring.

Here is the link.