Policy on Acceptable Use of the Amherst College Electronic Environment

The College maintains an electronic environment that includes a network, server systems, telephones, voicemail, and computers for faculty, staff and students. This environment is maintained to further the academic and administrative work of the College, and those uses take precedence over any others.

Restrictions on Use

The College's Electronic Accounts Policy defines the conditions under which individuals are given the privilege of using this environment. In general, users are expected to conform to the same standards of conduct when using this environment as are applicable to the use of other College facilities. The examples given below are illustrative, and are not intended to cover all possibilities. There will be a need for exceptions in some circumstances. Consult the Director of Information Technology with questions about specific activities or exceptions. Each account is provided for the use of a specific individual, and may not be shared with or lent to others. Individuals are expected to take reasonable precautions to prevent others from using their accounts. Examples of violations include

  • giving an account password to another person,
  • logging in to one's account at a public computer, then leaving without logging out, and
  • providing access to the campus network to others.

The Statement of Intellectual Responsibility and the Statement of Respect for Persons apply to the use of the electronic environment. Examples of violations of those standards include

  • sending harassing or threatening messages,
  • using the network to participate in plagiarism,
  • interfering with another person's files, accounts or coursework, and
  • sending "junk email" - email sent to large lists of people without a reasonable expectation that they wish to receive it.

Use of the electronic environment may not violate federal, state, or local law, including the laws of defamation, forgery, copyright/trademark infringement, and harassment. Examples include

  • installing copyrighted software on a College computer without paying the required fees, and
  • distributing copyrighted work without permission.

Use of the College's electronic environment for commercial purposes not relevant to the mission of the College is prohibited, unless specifically authorized in writing by the Director of Information Technology. Examples include

  • operating a business from a dormitory or office that uses the College's electronic environment,
  • fund raising and advertising using the College's electronic environment by groups or individuals other than officially recognized campus organizations, and
  • creating a website on the College server that sells items for personal profit.

Account owners may not engage in any activity that may reasonably be expected to be harmful to the systems operated by the College or a third party, or to information stored upon them. Examples include

  • participating in the breaking of security on a computer system regardless of whether it is owned by the College or by some third party, and
  • disrupting service on a computer system by sending automated messages which tie up the computer.

Common resources, such as network bandwidth, are to be shared by all members of the College community. Individuals may not engage in activities that might reasonably be expected to cause congestion of the network, or prevent others from making reasonable use of the College's electronic resources, or incapacitate, compromise, or damage the College's electronic resources. Examples include

  • operating network servers that consume more than a fair share of bandwidth,
  • funning programs that cause network congestion, and
  • sending "junk" email.

Enforcement Provisions
Violations of these conditions for the use of this environment are subject to the investigative and disciplinary procedures of the College, with the Director of Information Technology acting in an advisory role. The Office of the Dean of Students usually handles complaints against students. The Office of the Dean of the Faculty usually handles complaints against faculty. Complaints against staff and administrators are usually handled through supervisors and Human Resources. The Electronic Accounts Policy does provide for a small number of accounts for individuals who are neither students nor employees of the College; the Director of Information Technology will handle these cases, with consultation with the College administration as appropriate.

Limitation of Privileges Pending Judicial Process
In addition, in some cases, the College must act more immediately to protect its interests and resources (including the electronic environment and the data stored in it) or the rights and safety of others. The Director of Information Technology, or in his or her absence a delegate within Information Technology staff, has the authority to suspend or limit account privileges and access in those situations. When an account is suspended in this way, the Director of Information Technology or the delegate shall notify the appropriate office who will handle the complaint, and will attempt to notify the account owner. Account suspension under these conditions is temporary while the complaint is handled through the normal investigative and disciplinary procedures of the College.