Electronic Communication Infrastructure

General Policies Regarding the Electronic Communication Infrastructure at the University of Southern California

Section 1. Principles

1.1 As an institution founded to create, acquire, and disseminate knowledge, the University of Southern California (the university) provides for members of the university community an electronic communication infrastructure that includes computing resources, network connectivity, and tools for electronic communication. This infrastructure is the property of the university and is provided for the purpose of facilitating the business of the university including teaching, learning, scholarship, research, communication, and other creative endeavors. By providing this infrastructure, the university strongly encourages the free exchange of ideas and information among all members of its community and with members of other communities throughout the world.

1.2 The university is committed to providing an educational and work climate that is conducive to the personal and professional development of each individual. To fulfill its multiple missions as an institution of higher learning, the university encourages a culture that values and nurtures collegiality, diversity, pluralism, and the uniqueness of the individual. The university also strives to protect the rights and privileges and to enhance the self-esteem of all its members. Faculty, staff, and students should be aware that any form of harassment or discrimination against any individual is inconsistent with the values and ideals of the university community and is not permitted within the context of the electronic communication infrastructure.

1.3 In providing and maintaining its electronic communication infrastructure, the university complies with applicable federal, state, and local laws; and it requires that users do the same. USC also enforces its own policies and standards pertaining to the electronic communication environment.

1.4 The university makes every effort to observe the privacy of software, files, and materials stored on or transmitted by university computer equipment. When faced with evidence of violations of university policies or standards, of contractual obligations, or of federal, state, or local laws, the university may consider such software, files, and materials stored on or transmitted by university computer equipment to be property of the university and may inspect them without notice. When taken, this action does not supersede the intellectual property policies of the university; rather, it allows for the management of the electronic communication environment. The university also has the right to deny, limit, or terminate access to material posted on or transmitted by its computers. In addition, the university reserves the right to limit, restrict, or deny computing privileges and access to its information resources for those who violate university policies and/or laws.

Section 2. Code of Behavior

2.1 In matters not controlled by law or institutional policy, the university urges members of its community to exhibit ethical conduct in the use of computing resources. Electronic communication can be ambiguous and is less personal in nature than other forms of interaction. While the university encourages the exchange and debate of values and ideas, individuals are expected to exercise good judgment to ensure that their electronic communications reflect the high ethical standards of the academic community and convey mutual respect and civility. While the university will not restrict access to electronically available information, individuals using public computer workstations are encouraged to maintain an appropriate level of common civility and courtesy in viewing information content that could be identified as offensive to a passer-by or casual observer.

2.2 The university expects members of its community to familiarize themselves with copyright laws as they pertain to the educational environment and to understand the nature of the special privileges (referred to as fair use) extended by law to teachers and students in the limited reproduction of copyrighted materials for their personal use. The university expects members of its community to keep within legal limits in their use of copyrighted materials in the electronic environment. Posting any copyrighted material in an electronic form that is accessible by others, even if posted for personal use, is in violation of law and is prohibited. Similar prohibitions apply to the posting of trademarks or other protected symbols and the use and/or distribution of computer software or other electronic information and written materials, or parts thereof, without permission of the copyright holder.

2.3 University computing resources shall not be used for commercial or for-profit purposes.

Section 3. Responsibilities and Privacy

3.1 Individuals using the university’s computer facilities assume full responsibility for their experiences. The university cannot and will not attempt to protect individuals from material that may be offensive to them, except in cases of violation of the law, university policy, or standards, and in these cases only where technically feasible. Individuals making use of electronic communications are warned that they may willingly or unwillingly receive or discover material they find offensive. The university will not establish additional standards, beyond those that are already legally relevant, for discussion or language in electronic communication, including all forms a digital media. The university assumes no responsibility for the initiation or transmission of such material, whether or not such material originates inside or outside the university.

3.2 Individuals assume full responsibility and accountability for their actions. Computers offer powerful tools for communication, but they also offer the potential to infringe on the rights of others. Individuals should consider carefully how their actions affect other users, and whether their behavior is prohibited under university policy and standards, or under federal, state, or local law.

3.3 In accord with federal and state law, the university reserves the right to examine material stored on or transmitted through its facilities. The university will examine files only when, and to the extent that, reasonable business needs require official intervention for the protection and maintenance of the system. Members of the university community should be aware that privacy cannot be guaranteed in electronic communications, even for information or communications that have been deleted.

Section 4. Administration of Computing Policy

4.1 Authority for establishing university-wide policy and disseminating official information about the university as a whole resides with the university President. Responsibility for the electronic communications infrastructure is delegated to the Chief Information Officer, who assigns authority for its day-to-day management. University department heads must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the areas for which they are responsible adhere to university computing policies.

4.2 Violations of the law may be reported to the appropriate civic authorities. Violations of university policy and standards will be processed through the responsible university authorities. Access to computing resources may be restricted or denied, without warning, as a result of violations of law or university policy.

4.3 Specific guidelines and examples of acceptable use of computing resources are available online (cio.usc.edu/policies). In addition, questions regarding computing policy may be directed to the Office of the Chief Information Officer.