Electronic Communication Policy

Definition of Terms | General Statement of Principles | Who is Covered
Individual Privileges | Individual Responsibilities | Reporting Violations
Administration and Implementation | Approved By | Appendix A: FirstClass Q&A

Definition of Terms

  • Any ID and password combination issued by the University for access to electronic communication systems or computer resources.
  • Any person who uses a University of Maine’s electronic communication system or computer resources.
Electronic resources
  • Computer files and software, including but not limited to those which reside on disks and other storage media, individual computers, networked servers, or other electronic communications systems.
Electronic communications systems
  • Computers and networks [systems] used in communicating or posting information or material by way of electronic mail, bulletin boards or web pages or other such electronic resources. Also includes, but is not limited to, remote internet access services and direct connections to the campus network.
System administrator
  • A person responsible for managing and operating an electronic communication system for the use of others.

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General Statement of Principles
The University of Maine encourages the creative and innovative use of information technology to enhance its teaching, research, and public service mission. Users will not have their right to access denied or abridged due to the individuaal’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship status, age, disability, or veteran’s status. The University respects the intellectual labor and creativity of others and seeks to protect the free and peaceful expression of ideas. All members of the University share responsibility for maintaining an environment where actions are guided by mutual respect, integrity, and reason.

The University of Maine expects all members of its community to use network systems with proper regard for the rights of others and the University. Abuse of these privileges will be subject to disciplinary action, as established by the operating policies and procedures of the University. The University reserves the right to limit access in response to evidence of violations of University policy or federal, state or local laws. All members of the University community are bound by federal, state and local laws relating to civil rights, harassment, copyright, security, pornography, privacy, and other statutes relating to electronic media. It should be understood that this policy does not preclude enforcement under the laws and regulations of the United States of America, the State of Maine or local communities.
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Who is Covered by This Policy
All users of University of Maine electronic communications systems are subject to the provisions of this policy, including those who rely on remote or off-campus access to these systems.

Use of these systems implies consent with this policy, as well as other applicable University policies and local, state and federal laws. For individuals whose network accounts are primarily for representing units or special projects, further policies may apply as governed by the needs of the unit or project.
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Individual Privileges
The following individual privileges are extended to all users of electronic communication systems. However, it is understood that each of these privileges is conditioned upon acceptance of the accompanying responsibilities.

  1. Free Expression
    There shall be no restrictions placed on the fundamental rights to free speech except those necessary to protect the rights of others and to preserve the order necessary for the University to function as an institution of higher learning. Given the diverse cultural backgrounds of users, the University cannot protect individuals against exposure to materials that they may consider offensive. Nevertheless, the University reserves the right to take restrictive actions in response to complaints that posted material creates a hostile environment for individuals or classes of individuals. The University also has the responsibility to take restrictive action when a user violates University policy or federal, state or local laws.
  2. Privacy
    Users may expect to keep personal electronic mail correspondence reasonably confidential. Users should be sensitive to the inherent limitations of shared network resources in protecting privacy. Some examples of this may include printing personal messages on a shared printer, leaving a message or account open on a computer in a public computer lab, etc. Specific personal electronic communications and computer files will not be searched deliberately to seek evidence of malfeasance except in an emergency or as part of a formal investigation by an authorized authority.
  3. Due Process
    The University will use due process in cases of discipline resulting from rules violations. The University’s administrative procedures promote fundamental fairness, although they do not follow the traditional common law adversarial method of a court of law. System administrators are authorized to take any actions deemed necessary to preserve the integrity of the system, including immediate temporary suspension of access by any user allegedly involved in a violation pending the outcome of an investigation. See below for the procedure for addressing violations of this policy.

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Individual Responsibilities
Users of the University of Maine’s network systems accept responsibilities that include, but are not limited to, the following specific examples.

  1. Respect for Intended Use of Resources
    Users are responsible for all actions taken on their network account. Individual password security is the responsibility of the user and he/she should take precautions against others obtaining unauthorized access to his/her personal account. If the user allows another individual access to his/her account, the user assumes full responsibility for the actions of this individual while logged into his/her account. Accounts are not to be used for conducting personal business enterprises, including consulting for private gain. The University’s electronic communication systems are to be used only for the furtherance of the University’s mission and not for personal benefit.
  2. Respect for Privacy of Others
    Users shall not access anyone else’s electronic resources, including files and mail, without specific permission from the owner. Permission does not include sharing account information as designated above, but allows for collectively reading e-mail and sharing files using network services. The user shall not take advantage of another’s inexperience or negligence to gain access to any computer account, data, software, or file for which he or she has not received explicit permission to access.
  3. Respect for Shared Nature of Resources
    Users will not encroach on others’ use of the University’s computers and network facilities. No user should attempt to modify the University system or network facilities or to crash systems. Users should avoid activities that unreasonably tax systems resources, including but not limited to: sending an excessive number of messages either locally or over the Internet; participating in electronic chain letters, frivolously printing multiple copies of documents, files or data; excessive game playing; modifying system facilities, operating systems, or disk partitions; or damaging or vandalizing University computing facilities, equipment, software, or computer files.
  4. Respect for Rights of Others
    University computing resources will not be used to harm or threaten to harm the safety or environmental health of another individual or individuals. The user must comply with University policies and federal, state and local laws regarding discriminatory harassment. Examples of violations include, but are not limited to: harassment; defamation, violation of privacy; intentionally placing a person or persons in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm; giving or causing to be given false reports of fire or other dangerous conditions; or harassment or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship status, age, disability, or veteran status.
  5. Respect for Intellectual Property
    Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to the academic discourse and enterprise. This principle encompasses respect for the right to acknowledgment, right to privacy, and right to determine the form, manner, and terms of publication and distribution. Examples of violations include, but are not limited to: copying copyrighted software without express written permission of the copyright owner; failing to obtain necessary licensing for software or to adhere to all licensing provisions (installation, use, copying, number of simultaneous users, term of license, etc.); plagiarism or inadequate attribution of the intellectual property of others; posting of texts, images or audio works in disregard of copyright restrictions; or unauthorized publication or distribution of another’s work or writing.
  6. Respect for Integrity of System or Network
    Accounts shall not be used for unauthorized access and/or attempts to access computers, computer software, computer data or information, or networks without proper authorization, regardless of whether the computer, software, data, information, or network in question is owned by the University. Abuse of networks or computers at other sites using University of Maine resources will be treated as an abuse of computing privileges at the University. Users are prohibited from attempting to circumvent or subvert any system’s security measures.

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Reporting Violations
If a user believes that a violation of this policy or criminal act has occurred, the user should contact the appropriate campus office listed below. University officials will take appropriate action in accordance with established University procedures. Infractions that may be violations of federal, state, or local laws will be reported by University officials to the appropriate authorities.

If a situation occurs in which a user feels that their personal health or safety is in jeopardy or that of another person (i.e., death threat, physically threatening message, or suicide threat), the police should be contacted by dialing 911.

If a student has violated the Student Conduct Code, as published in the Student Handbook, users may report this directly to the Student Conduct Officer at 581-1409. If a user believes that he/she or others have been subjected to discriminatory harassment, this may be reported directly to the Office of Equal Opportunity at 581-1226. If a user’s employment is being affected by a violation, he/she should contact their supervisor or the Office of Human Resources at 581-1640.

In some situations, it may be necessary to suspend account privileges to prevent ongoing misuse while the alleged violation is under investigation. The system administrator reserves the right to immediate temporary suspension of the account(s) of anyone suspected of a violation, pending the outcome of investigation by the appropriate office listed above. In the case of minor, first time offenses, the system administrator may choose to resolve the situation informally without reporting the violation to other University officials. Appeals of any disciplinary decision will be handled according to existing law, University policies, and disciplinary procedures.
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Administration and Implementation
Systems administrators will manage network systems in a manner that is consistent with the system’s importance for campus communication and the need for privacy of personal electronic mail messages. In connection with their responsibilities, professional staff members may on occasion need access or monitor parts of the system and thereby be given access to the contents of certain electronic mail messages. System administrators will respect the privacy of personal communications encountered on the systems. However, if, during the course of routine duties, a system administrator encounters information that indicates that a breach of this policy or criminal act has been or is about to be committed, they will report the existence and source of this information to the proper authorities.

Administrators are not responsible for monitoring user activity or content on any network system. However, when they become aware of violations, either through the normal course of duty or by a complaint, it is their responsibility to refer the matter to the appropriate authority for investigation and possible discipline. To forestall an immediate threat to the security of a system or its users, system administrators may immediately suspend access of the people involved in the violation while the incident is being investigated. They may also take other actions to preserve the state of files and other information relevant to an investigation. Specific personal electronic communications and computer files will not be searched deliberately to seek evidence of malfeasance except when the appropriate authorities feel it is necessary in order: to enforce policies regarding harassment and the safety of individuals; to prevent the posting of proprietary software or texts, images, or audio works in disregard of copyright restrictions or contractual obligations; to safeguard the integrity of computers, networks, and data either at the University or elsewhere; and to protect the University against seriously damaging consequences.

In general, electronic mail is considered the private information between the sender and recipient account holder. There may be exceptional circumstances where the University may release electronic mail to other parties. These situations may include, but are not limited to, the death of the account holder, when an absent or terminated employee has received mail associated with his/her job responsibilities, or during the course of a criminal investigation by authorized legal authorities.

The University recognizes that all network system users are bound by federal, state, and local laws relating to civil rights, harassment, copyright, pornography, privacy, security and other statutes relating to electronic media. Nothing in this policy should be interpreted as precluding enforcement of the laws and regulations of the United States of America, State of Maine or any locality in the state of Maine.
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Approved by:

  • Faculty Senate, Fall 1998
  • President Hoff, January 11, 1999

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Appendix A
by approval of the President, May 9, 2000

April 24, 2000
Dr. Peter S. Hoff, President
200 Alumni Hall

Dear President Hoff:

We are pleased to present the report of the ad hoc FirstClass Committee. The Committee met twice. We also held a public forum and solicited comments over First Class and in conversations with the campus community. While the numbers responding were modest, the commentary was good and areas of consensus were frequent. Your questions and the answers follow.

First, might an open access policy interfere with the primary uses of FirstClass?

Interference is a possibility resulting from massive downloading of material from Internet to FirstClass. We agree that the primary purpose of FirstClass is for the transaction of University business (classes, administrative communications, student organization messages, etc.). If the System administrators fear a threat to those uses, they should be empowered to limit downloading activity.

Second, should FirstClass be restricted to only University business?

The FirstClass system is the University’s property. Consistent with the primary use for University business, the University chooses to open FirstClass to wide access by members of the campus community. In doing so, we encourage a policy of widespread exchange of views and information on the campus subject to reasonable conditions of access.

Third, what monitoring of sites should take place?

We endorse and strengthen the present system of file moderators. Any member(s) of the community wishing to create a conference folder may do so by filling out a form available from the FirstClass Administrator. We require a concise statement of the purpose of the conference and the name of the conference moderator. The moderator’s name will appear on the conference. Conference folder registration will take place annually. The conference moderator is expected to stay attentive to the conference’s contents and is authorized to remove material that is not germane to the purpose of the conference.

We continue the policy of allowing the creation of “private conference”. These must identify topic and moderator in the same fashion as public conference files. They may also identify only those members of the community authorized to participate in the conversations. The analogy is to a private dinner table conversation from which undesired participants may be excluded. The parties excluded retain their right to converse on the same or other topics at a different table (conference folder).

Anyone may call to the attention of the FirstClass administrator a situation in which a Moderator is not carrying out his/her functions. After consultation with the FirstClass Committee (see Fifth Item below), the Administrator may remove the Moderator and/or remove material from the conference folder.

Fourth, should we retain our current Electronic Communications Policy?

We should retain the Policy and make clear that it is the only University Policy on the subject. The Policy was prepared after careful consideration of open access, First Amendment rights, and control of speech not protected by the First Amendment. The Policy provides guidance to potential speakers. It also sets the standards for sanctions of certain speech. The Policy continues to serve useful purposes.

Fifth, is there a need for a continuing body to advise on FirstClass policy?

We favor the continuation of this Committee. It should meet once per semester to review any issues. The FirstClass Administrator should also be able to consult in person or electronically with the Committee about issues such as the removal of a conference moderator or the elimination of downloaded material.

Our thanks to all who helped with this work.


  • Donald Zillman, Co-Chair
  • Richard Chapman, Co-Chair
  • Committee members
    • Jason Baack
    • Sarah Curran
    • John Gregory
    • Evelyn Silver
    • Gloria Vollmers
    • James Williams

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