Sunday, January 15, 2012

Think, ask, and ask again, before you sign

Last week faculty and staff were sent a message from Human Resources (another office with lots of new powers on campus--didn't the Admin dismantle the Student Career Development Center and put it under the control of the university's Human Resources Department?--odd). At any rate, HR sent this message under the title of COMPLIANCE ALERT: Computer Usage Policy claiming "to provide guidelines for appropriate use of computers and tech services by students, faculty, and staff..." We were asked to print it out, sign and return the "Certification page," by Feb. 3rd indicating that we understood the policy or our "computer access would be suspended." Any questions about this were to be directed to the Ethics Office.

When I clicked on the link to see exactly what it was I would be signing I did not find a pro forma statement about being nice on the computer (e.g. don't read porn, use passwords etc). Instead, I found a multi-page document with more than a few troubling paragraphs. Two in particular raised red flags:

This policy will be modified as new questions and situations arise. Each individual who uses Chicago State University’s computing facilities thereby agrees that his/her use of these facilities will remain within the bound of acceptable use as described in this and other University computing policies or other Chicago State University codes of conduct...

1. Respect the rights and sensibilities of others.
a. Electronic mail and all other electronic communication (including websites and blog posts) should adhere to the University standards of conduct which prohibits any communication which tends to embarrass, humiliate or shed a negative light on any member of the community. Respect others you contact electronically by avoiding distasteful, inflammatory, harassing or otherwise unacceptable comments.


Another colleague shared my sentiments about the offending passages but articulated the problem more succinctly. Computer technology should be used for furthering open inquiry and discussion.

"I noticed the passage and I too thought it threatened the open criticism of the administration on the blog and using university computers. It seems that we should argue that this is precisely what universities should do—encourage open examination and criticism of the conduct of members of the university—and if folks feel embarrassed, humiliated, or cast in a negative light, then they should examine the conduct that brought on the criticism, not attempt to block criticism. If the comments that may tend to embarrass, humiliate or case someone in a negative light are incorrect, then they should be rebutted in the same spirit of open discussion and criticism. For example, the president early on cast the faculty’s teaching in a negative light; we did not attempt to censor him but to rebut his remarks."

Since the document tries to enforce faculty "conduct" we need to know who put this statement together and who it is that will be determining good or bad conduct. Since it steps on free speech issues, H.R., the Ethics Office, and the campus CIO should explain how this statement came into existence--what campus committee of faculty, staff and students put this statement together? CIO Ce Cole Dillon responded to an email about this, but not to the question. The Ethics Office and H.R. have yet to respond.

CSU's Union Leadership, however, did respond and has alerted the Administration to the following: The requirement for employees to sign the new "Computer Usage Policy" is a change in working conditions and, as such, its implementation for members of UPI Local 4100 is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Not sure when or how this will be bargained. Until then, I'm not signing and am certainly not signing away my right to question issues and individuals at CSU.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Corday that we should not sign. I encourage all faculty to refuse to sign. Each person who refuses to sign strengthens the others who refuse to sign.

    I think that, in the spirit of open discussion, the key paragraphs of the new policy should be the topic of a campus-wide open debate. I would be glad to debate anyone from the administration that the policy contravenes the spirit of inquiry and open discussion and criticism which is essential to the advancement of knowledge.

    If they intended to discourage only mindless name-calling or racial or gender slurs, then they need to take a critical thinking class. I would be glad to admit any of them to my section, but they have to meet at 8 AM.