George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
Continuation of September 12, 2001 meeting
September 19, 2001
Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, L. Bowen, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, R. Coffinberger, R. Conti, S. deMonsabert, M. DeNys, E. Elstun, J. Gorrell, H. Gortner, J. High, W. Jeong, D. Kuebrich, C. Mattusch, J. Moore, H. Morgan, R. Nadeau, L. Pawloski, L. Rockwood, J. Sanford, L. Seligmann, S. Slayden, P. Stearns,
P. Story, C. Sutton, S. Zoltek
Senators Absent: A. Berry, W. M. Black, B. Brown, R. Carty, S. Cheldelin, T. Chorvat, Y. D. Chung, S. Cobb, M. Deshmukh, T. Friesz, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, G. Hanweck, K. Haynes, R. Klimoski, A. Kolker, M. Krauss, B. Manchester, A. Merten, W. Reeder, J. Kozlowski, S. Ruth, J. Scimecca, R. Smith, P. So, A. Sofer, D. Struppa, B. Sturtevant, C. Thomas, S. Trencher, P. Wilkie, J. Zenelis
Guests Present: Peter Denning, Anne Marchant, Robin Herron
I. Call to Order
Chair, Don Boileau called the meeting to order at 3:00 pm.
II. New Business
A. Carol Mattusch presented a motion on continuation of modem access to the internet for faculty, staff and students. There was considerable discussion of this issue, and many questions were raised. Consequently, D. Boileau relinquished the Chair of this meeting in order to provide information about his role in the development of this policy during the past summer.
Moved and seconded that George Mason University continue to provide all faculty, staff and students with the current form of modem access to the web and to e-mail accounts, and that if changes are proposed to the current system they should not be
made until after the end of this semester and after full and open consideration of the issues has led to common agreement among affected parties as to how best to proceed.
Richard Coffinberger added a friendly amendment to the motion, and introduced the motion as amended below:
Communication on this motion should go directly to the President, Alan Merten with copies to Vice President for Information Technology, Joy Hughes and Provost, Peter Stearns. The motion passed. The Faculty Senate Technology Committee will represent the Faculty Senate in this matter.
D. Boileau offered to deliver the letter personally to the President of GMU. It was suggested that he alert the President of faculty frustration over the lack of communication with the Office of the Vice President for Technology, Joy Hughes.
B. Professor Nadeau presented a motion on the new state policy which supercedes the George Mason University policy on internet use by employees in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Faculty Senate Resolution on Challenges to Academic Freedom and the Right to Privacy
Sponsors: Robert Nadeau and Patrick Story
Background: A new policy regarding internet use by employees in the Commonwealth of Virginia states that all state owned computers and telecommunications equipment can only be used for “business purposes.” On the issue of privacy, the Policy states: “No user should have any expectation of privacy in any message, file, image, or data created, sent, retrieved or received by the use of the Commonwealth’s equipment of access. Agencies have a right to monitor any and all aspects of their computer
systems including, but not limited to, sites, instant message systems, chat groups, or news groups visited by agency users, material downloaded or uploaded by agency users, and e-mail sent or received by agency users. Such monitoring may occur at
any time, without notice, and without the user’s permission.”
This policy was issued by the Department of Human Resource Management pursuant to the authority provided in Chapter 10, Title 2.1 of the Code of Virginia. The members of the GMU Faculty Senate recognize that there are instances in which unlawful uses of computers and telecommunications equipment by state employees may require outside intervention and legal action. GMU University Administrative Policy Number 60, known as the Responsible Use of Computing Policy (RUC), details procedures that allow these unlawful uses to be dealt on a case-by-case basis. This University Policy, which was approved by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, has functioned extremely well while still providing adequate protections for rights of privacy and freedom of expression for students and faculty.
However, the new Policy takes legal precedence of the University Policy and the Commonwealth of Virginia now has the authority to access and review an electronic materials that faculty communicate over the state owned system, including those
stored on office and lap top computers. In the extreme case, sophisticated surveillance software could be used to monitor all of these materials with the intent of isolating instances in which faculty may have violated guidelines for use of state owned computers and telecommunications equipment. There is also the prospect that open-ended searches could be authorized that seek to isolate instances in which faculty, in the legitimate pursuit of their research and teaching activities, have accessed materials or included references that could be perceived, out of context, as improper uses of the system.
It is conceivable, of course, that none of these actions will be taken. If, however, we wish to preclude this prospect, it seems reasonable and prudent to attempt to establish a policy for the responsible use of computing in public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia that is specifically tailored to the special needs and requirements of institutions of high learning. The rationale for taking this action is straightforward. The pursuit of knowledge in higher education requires a climate in which opinions can be freely expressed and new ideas can be freely explored without fear of discrimination or persecution. In the absence of this climate, students in higher education would not be able to properly communicate with their professors or to freely examine the broad range of issues and perspectives that are often critical to the learning process in a democratic society. Equally disturbing, the Policy could compromise the intellectual property rights of faculty and restrict research activities.
WHEREAS the new Policy on computer use by employees in the Commonwealth of Virginia, pursuant to the authority provided in Chapter 10, Title 2.1 of the Code of Virginia, violates the privacy of both students and faculty in public colleges and universities;
WHEREAS said Policy is a threat to freedom of inquiry and expression in the pursuit of knowledge in public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
WHEREAS said Policy could compromise intellectual freedom and existing protections of intellectual property rights of faculty teaching in public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
WHEREAS said Policy is inconsistent with the mission and purpose of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
It is resolved that:
a) the Faculty Senate of GMU create an ad hoc committee composed of two elected representatives from the Senate, two representatives appointed by the Provost and two representatives appointed by the Vice President of Information Technology
charged with formulating on or before November 1, 2001, a GMU policy on the use of state owned computers and telecommunications equipment specifically tailored to the needs and requirements of institutions of high learning;
b) the President of the Faculty Senate of GMU will by formal letter ask members of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate of the State of Virginia, in consultation with representatives of faculty senates in all public colleges and universities, to formulate within a six month period a responsible use of computing policy for all public institutions of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
c) The President of the Faculty Senate at GMU will in this same letter recommended that the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate of the State of Virginia work with one or more representatives of the General Assembly on legislation that would, if enacted, formally approve the new policy;
d) The President and Faculty Senate of GMU will contact Robert M. O’Neil, Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, and request that the Center use its resources and legal expertise to assist the Faculty Senate in the formulation of the new policy and the drafting of said legislation.
Esther Elstun moved to substitute the following for section (b): The resolution, if adopted, will be sent to the General Assembly’s Northern Virginia delegation, appealing to them to initiate in the General Assembly whatever actions are necessary to (1) overturn the no-privacy section of the state policy on computer use by employees, because it is unconstitutional; and (2) allow the privacy provisions of the already state-approved RUC policies at individual colleges and universities in Virginia to stand.
The substitute motion was seconded and passed. Section C and D of the motion was deleted. The main motion, as amended passed.
An election followed creating the senate membership to the ad hoc committee in the above motion. Elected were: Robert Nadeau and Richard Coffinberger. Two members will be appointed by the Provost and two members by the Vice President for Information Technology to complete the committee.
Secretary, Faculty Senate
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