Senate discusses proposed electronic communications policy
The UI Academic Senate will get an opportunity to review the university’s proposed electronic communications policy at its first meeting of the 2011-12 academic year Sept. 12.
The Senate Executive Committee placed the item on the agenda after chief privacy and security officer Mike Corn asked members Aug. 29 to act quickly so the policy could be implemented immediately – and prior to the upcoming universitywide transition to a common email system under UC @ Illinois.
Corn first presented a draft of the proposed policy to the SEC in July and said he had made similar presentations this year to senate and other university academic committees.
“It involved a number of people from throughout the campus,” he said. “We got quite a bit of feedback; we made quite a few revisions.”
He’s asking the senate to make a positive recommendation to the chancellor, who ultimately will decide the policy’s fate, and said a finalized version could still be changed to address specific senate concerns.
“There is no (university) policy at all that addresses email or electronic communications,” Corn said Aug. 29.
SEC members paid specific attention to three sections of the policy affecting the email use of faculty and staff members, students and for educational activities.
The policy would require professors ensure that any sharing of educational records with students is done through a university-verified account and would prohibit faculty or staff members from redirecting “@illinois” mail to a third-party email account. The policy would provide some leeway in “personal use” issues – where employees may engage in a minimal level of personal communication.
Corn said the student-verification issue is important because it ensures the recipient of student information is qualified to receive it.
The only way to change that scenario would be to “force the students to use an @illinois account,” he said, which hasn’t been proposed.
He said the third-party email issue, or “redirectionability,” becomes relevant in the event an employee in charge of important information leaves the university or dies – leaving business and personal emails in an un-retrievable domain.
“The university has no access to it,” he said. “The entire business of the university could be sitting in a private account. (Your university email) is your official account – you should really use it.”
He said the added benefit of conducting university business within the university email system is that a contractual agreement with Google prevents anyone from data-mining information within the university’s mail system.
Some SEC members expressed uncertainty over voluntary campus participation and indicated policing and enforcing the policy would be difficult.
Regardless, Corn said there have been discussions to expand a finalized policy to the other UI campuses.
“Having a policy that is generally followed is better than a black hole,” he said.
Interim Chancellor and Vice President Bob Easter reported to the SEC that the first week of classes had gone “reasonably well” and that newly appointed Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise would likely be on campus for a preliminary visit and be able to attend the year’s opening meeting of the full senate. She’s not scheduled to officially take over chancellor duties until Oct. 1.
“The transition is going well, but I wouldn’t want to be in Phyllis Wise’s shoes because right now she is doing two jobs,” Easter said.
He said administrators had supplied briefing materials to prepare her in leading the Urbana campus and that she already was becoming versed in the many issues facing the UI.
“I know I had a steep learning curve coming into this (position),” Easter said. “We handed off to her a substantial amount of materials. I think she’ll be fully prepared to become engaged.”
Richard Wheeler, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, said his interactions with Wise had been “very encouraging” and he felt she was committed to the university.
“The age of the interim is coming to an end,” he proclaimed. “She plans to be a fully empowered CEO/chancellor when she arrives.”