Communications and External Relations Team

Policy on Use of University Information Technology Resources

In accordance with its mission to disseminate and extend knowledge, to foster the free exchange of ideas, to provide effective support for its teaching, research and public service functions, it is the policy of the University of Wisconsin System to afford broad resources* for University** students, faculty and staff for use in fulfilling the university's missions, and for appropriate university-related activities.

* Information technology resources include computers, software, e-mail accounts, Internet access and similar computing tools.

** "University" is used in this document to refer to the University of Wisconsin System and its institutions.

Access by Individuals

Access to information technology resources carries with it the responsibility for ensuring that the use of these resources is primarily for university purposes and university-related activities, and for maintaining the integrity and security of the university's computing facilities. In the interest of making the use of information technology resources a natural part of the day-to-day work of all members of the university community, incidental personal use is tolerated. However, one should use non-university sources of e-mail, Internet access and other information technology services for activities of an extensive or recurring nature that are not related to university purposes. For the security of the information technology system, individuals having access to information technology resources must take reasonable care to ensure that unauthorized persons are not able to use their access to the system.

Dissemination of Information and Official Documents

Information technology resources are a dynamic mechanism for the free exchange of knowledge, and it is desirable for the university to foster robust dialogue that results from the use of the resource, and to encourage students, faculty and staff to participate in that dialogue. Those exchanges that reflect the ideas, comments and opinions of individual members of the university community must, however, be distinguished from those that represent official positions, programs and activities of the university. Students faculty and staff using information technology resources for purposes of exchanging, publishing or circulating official university documents* must follow institutional requirements concerning appropriate content and style.

The university is not responsible for the content of documents, exchanges or messages, including links to other information locations on the Internet or world wide web, that reflect only the personal ideas, comments and opinions of individual members of the university community, even where they are published or otherwise circulated to the public at large by means of university information technology resources.

* Official university documents are those which purport to speak for the university and its official programs and departments, such as policy documents, official forms, curriculum information, institutional statistics, and departmental home pages on the world wide web.

Inter-institutional Cooperation

During times when they are away from the UW System institution where they are enrolled, students may benefit from the ability to use the information technology resources of another UW System campus. To the extent possible with available resources, each UW System institution should allow access to its information technology resources by students taking distance education and other courses from other UW System institutions.

Limitations on the Availability of Information Technology resources

The university's information technology resources are, by nature, finite. All members of the university community must recognize that certain uses of university information technology resources may be limited for reasons related to the capacity or security of the university's information technology systems, or as required for fulfilling the university's primary teaching, research and public service missions.

Privacy and Confidentiality of Electronic Documents

No information technology resources can absolutely guarantee the privacy or confidentiality of electronic documents. UW System institutions should, however, take reasonable precautions to protect electronic documents containing private and confidential information, and to assure persons using university information technology resources to transmit e-mail or electronic documents that the university will not seek access to their messages or documents except when necessary to:

  1. Meet the requirements of the Wisconsin Public Records Law, or other statutes, laws or regulations; *
  2. Protect the integrity of the university's information technology resources, and the rights and other property of the university;
  3. Allow system administrators to perform routine maintenance and operations, and respond to emergency situations; or
  4. Protect the rights of individuals working in collaborative situations where information and files are shared.

UW System institutions may choose to establish more detailed procedures for determining when access to electronic documents will be sought by the institution. As encryption products become more readily available, institutions may also wish to make them available to information technology users as appropriate to protect privacy interests.

* The electronic records of university employees are subject to disclosure in accordance with the Wisconsin Public Records Law. Student records, including electronic documents, are protected against disclosure by the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which restricts access to personally identifiable information from students' education records.

Other Limitations on Use of Information Technology Resources

In addition to the general principles set forth in this policy, the use of information technology resources may be affected by a number of other legal and ethical principles. While it is not possible to list all potential applicable laws and regulations, the following are particularly likely to have implications for the use of university information technology resources:

  1. Ethical standards of conduct for the appropriate use of one's university position and university resources are established for faculty and academic staff in Chapter UWS 8, Wisconsin Administrative Code, and for classified staff in Chapter ER-MRS24, Wisconsin Administrative Code.
  2. Chapters UWS 14 and 17, Wisconsin Administrative Code, establish standards and disciplinary processes relating to academic and nonacademic misconduct by students, including prohibitions on disruption of university activities, damage to university facilities, harassment and similar matters.
  3. Chapter UWS 18, Wisconsin Administrative Code, governs conduct on university lands, and applies to all members of the university community. Chapter UWS 21, Wisconsin Administrative Code, regulates the use of university facilities.
  4. Section 943.70, Wisconsin Administrative Code, defines and prohibits certain computer crimes.
  5. Chapter 11, Wisconsin statues, restricts the use of state facilities for political activities by state employees.
  6. The federal copyright law applies to materials published or circulated through the use of computing resources.
  7. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act restricts access to personally identifiable information from students' education records.

Students, faculty and staff are responsible for understanding and observing these and all other applicable policies, regulations and laws in connection with their use of the university's information technology resources.

UW System Institution Responsibilities

In order to assist members of the university community in fulfilling their responsibilities with respect to use of information technology resources, each UW System institution shall disseminate this policy, together with guidance as to any specific campus policies affecting the use of information technology resources.

Failure to Comply with Information Technology Resource Policies

Failure to adhere to the provisions of this policy may result in the suspension or loss of access to university information technology resources, appropriate disciplinary action as provided under existing procedures applicable to students, faculty and staff, or civil or criminal prosecution.

To preserve and protect the integrity of information technology resources, there may be circumstances where the university must immediately suspend or deny access to the resources. Should a student's access be suspended under these circumstances, the university shall inform the student immediately and shall afford the student an opportunity to respond. The university shall then determine whether disciplinary action under Chapter UWS 17, Wisconsin Administrative Code, or some alternative course of action, is warrented and shall follow the procedure established for such cases.