Network and Computer Usage Policy

Introduction

TCU provides technology to help facilitate the academic, research, and administrative needs of students, faculty and staff.  Technology allows you to quickly and efficiently access and exchange information, both within the TCU community and around the globe.  This valuable resource is provided as a privilege, and with that privilege comes the responsibility of all users to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the mission, purposes and values of the University.  It is the responsibility of every person who uses University Computing Resources to read and abide by this Network and Computer Usage Policy.

Applicability

This policy is applicable to the entire TCU community (students, faculty, staff and other authorized users) and to all University Computing Resources, whether owned, leased, contracted or managed by TCU.  University Computing Resources include, but are not limited to:

  • hardware (e.g. computers, mobile computing devices, servers, network devices)
  • telecommunication equipment (e.g. phone systems, traditional phones, cell phones, smartphones)
  • storage media (e.g. discs, flash drives, external drives)
  • peripheral devices (e.g. printers, scanners, monitors)
  • networks
  • software
  • electronic data

Appropriate Use

TCU expects all users of University Computing Resources to respect the rights and privacy of other users, respect the integrity of physical facilities and controls, and respect the ownership and usage rights for digital media.  You may only use those University Computing Resources that you are authorized to use, and must use them in the manner and to the extent you are authorized.  Use of University Computing Resources must not violate any applicable laws, rules or policies.  Use of University Computing Resources must adhere to the university’s Code of Conduct policy, available on the Human Resources website at: http://www.hr.tcu.edu.

University Computing Resources are intended to be used for University-related activities and, depending upon the circumstances, reasonable personal use.  What constitutes “reasonable personal use” may depend on your relationship with TCU.  For example, a resident student’s personal internet and e-mail use is generally acceptable, but similar activities by an employee during working hours must not interfere with the employee’s job performance.

Improper use of University Computing Resources can subject you to discipline by TCU.  The following list, while not exhaustive, contains examples of what TCU deems to be improper use.

  • Using University Computing Resources for personal commercial or financial gain.
  • Consuming a significant amount of bandwidth or network resources.
  • Any activity that compromises network security.
  • Knowingly installing or distributing a program, such as a computer virus, intended to damage or strain a computer or network.
  • Allowing unauthorized users to access any TCU network.
  • Using another person’s account.
  • Using or disclosing another person’s password.
  • Connecting personal computers or devices to the University’s Network without prior authorization.
  • Using unauthorized network devices, such as routers, firewalls, and wireless access points.
  • Manually assigning an IP address to a network device or otherwise using an IP address that is not assigned to you.
  • Attempting to access any data or information by breaching or circumventing security measures.
  • Attempts to monitor, analyze, or tamper with network data packets.
  • Personal use of TCU Computing Resources during working hours by an employee of the University which interferes with the employee’s job performance.

In addition to violations of TCU rules, certain computer misconduct is prohibited under federal and state laws. Such misconduct can subject you to a civil lawsuit and/or criminal prosecution.  Examples of such misconduct include:

  • Using University Computing Resources to conduct illegal activity, to promote or advocate illegal activity, or to discuss illegal activities with the intent to commit them.
  • Using University Computing Resources to harass, defame, abuse, or threaten others.
  • Falsely obtaining electronic services or data without payment of required charges.
  • Knowingly accessing a computer or network without the effective consent of the owner.
  • Accessing, copying, transporting (to another person or location), modifying, or destroying programs, records, or data belonging to TCU or another user without authorization, whether such data is in transit or storage.
  • Physical theft, relocation, modification, or damage to any TCU computer or network equipment, facilities, or property. This includes all computer labs, network hubs, wiring, ports and links.

Copyright and Intellectual Property

Unauthorized duplication of copyrighted works, such as books, movies, photographs, video games, music and software, is a violation of federal copyright law.  TCU supports strict compliance with federal laws regarding copyright infringement.  Anyone who engages in illegal copying shall be subject to disciplinary action under TCU’s policies and may be sued in federal court by the copyright owner.

E-Mail | Electronic Communications | Social Networks

Electronic communications (e-mail, text messages, social networks, blogs, etc.) enjoy tremendous popularity in our society.  Much of the communication between TCU staff, administration and students will be electronic.  The informality and immediacy of electronic communications can, however, lead to content abuse.  TCU neither sanctions nor censors individual expression of opinion in electronic communications, but TCU expects a certain level of etiquette and civility in these communications.  Electronic communications must not:

  • contain profanity, obscenity or inappropriate jokes;
  • harass, defame or intimidate others;
  • misrepresent the identity of the sender; or
  • be broadcast indiscriminately to a large number of recipients.

Use common sense when communicating electronically.  A good rule of thumb is to assume that any message you send will be forwarded to someone you do not know.  Never send confidential information electronically unless you use appropriate electronic security measures, such as encryption.

Users who make use of social networks, forums and other public sites do so voluntarily, with the understanding that they may encounter material they deem offensive.  Use of University Computing Resources to post or display offensive materials on social networks and forums may subject you to discipline by TCU.  Users who subscribe, post messages, or simply browse through such sites must abide by the rules governing each in addition to TCU’s policies.

Privacy | Access | Disclosure of Information

In general, information stored on a computer or sent electronically over a network is considered private and confidential, unless the owner or sender makes that information available to others.  All users must respect this right of privacy.  Examination of private information without authorization from the owner is a violation of this policy.  Merely attempting to circumvent security measures protecting the information will be treated as a violation and may subject you to discipline.

On shared and networked computer systems, certain information about users and their activities is visible to others. Users are cautioned that certain accounting and directory information (for example, user names and electronic mail addresses), certain records of file names and executed commands, and information stored in public areas, are not private. Nonetheless, such unsecured information about other users must not be manipulated in ways that they might reasonably find intrusive; for example, eavesdropping by computer and systematic monitoring of the behavior of others are likely to be considered invasions of privacy that would be cause for disciplinary action.

TCU will exercise reasonable security measures to protect your private files and data. Nonetheless, users should understand that no security mechanisms are perfect, and the potential for unauthorized access to private information does exist.  Exercise caution when creating digital files or messages containing personal or sensitive information.  Shut down or lock your computer before leaving it unattended.  Do not share your network password or leave it displayed on or near your computer.  Many instances of unauthorized access are attributable to the careless actions of the owner.

Even though TCU deems your electronically stored information to be private, users must understand that in certain situations, such information may be accessed, reviewed and/or disclosed by TCU.

  • If you request technical assistance, the technical staff may need to view specific data in order to investigate, diagnose, or correct a problem.
  • TCU logs network activity on a routine basis, and these logs are reviewed periodically by system administrators. The logs include a record of user processes.
  • System administrators may access and review users’ files and communications when it is necessary to maintain or prevent damage to systems.
  • TCU may access the computer and electronic data of an employee who is absent or unavailable if such access is necessary to carry out the employee’s job responsibilities during the absence.
  • Electronic data left behind by a former student or employee, excluding retirees, becomes the property of the University and may be accessed, archived and/or deleted, at the sole discretion of the Chief Technology Officer.
  • Electronic data will be accessed and disclosed in connection with authorized TCU investigations of policy violations.
  • TCU will comply with any lawful administrative or judicial order, warrant or subpoena requiring the production of electronic files or data.
  • TCU may preserve and/or disclose your communications and/or documents in connection with civil lawsuits.  These disclosures may occur even if you are not a party to the lawsuit.  All such disclosures will be coordinated through TCU legal counsel.

In some situations, the law requires that TCU give you advance notice that your data or files may be disclosed to a third party.  Even if legal notice is not required, TCU will try to inform you of a data disclosure unless the circumstances warrant otherwise.

To access, review and/or disclose electronic data and information, TCU may access discs, tapes, drives and other storage media, and electronic communications, whether in transit or storage.  Keep in mind that even if you delete files or electronic communications stored on TCU’s servers, copies of the data may still persist on backup media and may therefore be subject to access and disclosure in the situations described above.

Enforcement

Suspected violations of this policy will normally be handled through TCU disciplinary procedures applicable to the relevant user.  TCU may suspend a user’s access to University Computing Resources, prior to the initiation or completion of such disciplinary procedures, when it reasonably appears necessary to preserve the integrity, security, or functionality of University Computing Resources or to protect TCU from liability. TCU may also refer suspected violations of applicable laws to appropriate law enforcement agencies.

The University’s Chief Technology Officer shall be the primary contact for the interpretation, enforcement and monitoring of this policy and the resolution of problems concerning it.  Any legal issues concerning the policy shall be referred to the appropriate officials for advice.   Employees may appeal the resolution of problems in regarding this policy via the University’s Conflict Resolution Policy.

Web Pages | Domain Names | E-Mail Addresses | Account Names

TCU maintains certain domain names and web pages considered to be “official” pages of the University.  These official web pages are to be used for TCU business and may only be modified by authorized individuals.  Using or displaying TCU logos on other web pages without the express written permission of TCU is prohibited.  Additionally, users must not maintain any website, web page or internet domain name purporting or suggesting to be “official” pages of the University.  If confusion is possible, an appropriate disclaimer should be displayed.

TCU owns all account names as well as e-mail addresses having the tcu.edu domain.  TCU may revoke or modify your tcu.edu e-mail addresses or account names at any time.  Therefore, using TCU email for personal communications is done at your own risk.  Upon your separation from the University, excluding retirement, your right to send and receive e-mail through your tcu.edu address will cease.

Security | Network Issues

  • Since computer systems and networks are imperfect, users are strongly requested to report any bugs or security holes to TCU’s technical staff.  Likewise, users should not disseminate to others any information that could jeopardize, circumvent, or degrade system security or integrity.
  • Users recognize that systems and networks are imperfect and waive any responsibility for lost work or time that may arise from their use. TCU will not compensate users for degradation or loss of personal data, software, or hardware as a result of their use of University-owned systems or networks, or as a result of assistance they may seek from TCU’s technical staff.
  • TCU must ensure that academic work takes precedence at all times over other computing activities in its facilities. In situations of high user demand that may strain available computer resources, TCU reserves the right to restrict (e.g., to specific times of day) or prohibit computer activities such as game playing.

Data Retention & Destruction

TCU systems are backed up on a routine basis to ensure the ability to recover from computer or network failures or disturbances.  TCU cannot, however, guarantee the restoration of any lost or deleted information stored on its servers.

Further, once your relation with TCU ends, your access to University Computing Resources terminates. Therefore, a user which leaves or separates from the University or its employment will not necessarily have access to University property or any personal files, email or other data stored on University property.

If you utilize University Computing Resources to store your personal files, documents and communications, you do so at your risk.  TCU recommends that you store your personal data on your own storage media.  At a minimum, you should maintain a backup copy of your personal data.

At no time does the University accept liability for the maintenance, backup, security or loss of personal data.