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Policies for computer use

Preamble

The computing systems in the Department of Computer Science are intended to support its educational and research purposes and to enhance the educational environment. The following is a list of goals that the Department hopes to achieve:

  • To ensure that the computing systems are properly maintained.
  • To ensure that computer system up-time is at a maximum.
  • To announce in advance any down time that is scheduled.
  • To make available state of the art computer systems and software. This is of course subject to available funds and space.
  • To make available suitable stations for those with special needs. This is of course subject to available funds and space.
  • To make the Department's computer systems readily available to our students (see also Policy on Keys).

The hardware in the Department's facilities is the property of the University; the software, and the files of users are intellectual property. All require respect. Therefore, access to the Department's computing facilities is a privilege that can be withdrawn should a user or users abuse the hardware or software or violate the rights and needs of others. It is imperative that your conduct in a computer environment be in accordance with the rights and responsibilities that direct society in general.

Privacy Issues

Users must respect other users' computer files, as these are their own private property. This also includes any University files such as grades, budgets, and research data. Such actions as destroying, altering, copying or simply snooping through the data of other users is a serious breach of ethics and will be treated seriously by the Department.

System Security and Cracking

Threats to the integrity of computer systems and networks can adversely affect the ability of others to effectively accomplish their work. Threats include such activities as trying to obtain access to computer files that are restricted, trying to obtain passwords for other accounts, trying to remove or change restrictions or charges on a computer account, and trying to affect system performance or behaviour. Activities of this nature are serious breaches of ethics, and will be treated seriously by the Department. They may involve disciplinary hearings or criminal charges.

User Codes

As per CCCP's policy on user codes (April 1994), all registered Brock University students will receive a user code on a central system for electronic mail and will have general internet access.

The Department of Computer Science will provide user codes for students registered in the programme. The students will be allocated user code(s) (with the required resources) on appropriate machine(s) as required for completion of the courses in which they are enrolled.

Users are to use only those computer accounts that have been authorized through the normal Department channels. It is unethical to use another user's account. Users are responsible for the use of their own computing accounts. They should maintain secure passwords and take precautions to prevent others from obtaining unauthorized access to their computing resources.

The user codes provided are to be used solely for the completion of course projects, assignments, and for academic research. Use of a user code for the purpose of financial gain is strictly forbidden without the prior consent of the Department and consequent contractual arrangements with the Department.

Department user codes will be issued as follows:

  • Students registered in Computer Science courses numbered 1(alpha)xx will receive user codes only for those systems required to complete the work in the course. These user codes will be removed at the end of each term or if the student withdraws from the course.
  • Students registered in Computer Science course(s) numbered 2(alpha)00 and above will be issued user codes on all Department systems. These user codes are removed if the student withdraws from all department courses, and in the subsequent fall unless the student has reregistered.

Although the Department will make every attempt to retain student files between years, students must take ultimate responsibility for backing up their files.

Application for user codes for students not covered above may be made using a form available from the secretary and on this server, and will require the approval of the department chair.

All user codes are subject to deactivation or removal as a result of disciplinary action taken against a user for violation of the computer use policies.

Software Piracy

The unauthorized copying of software deprives the developers of a fair return for their work, which results in an increase in prices, a reduction in the level of support and the chance of any future enhancements.

The unauthorized copying of copyrighted software is illegal. The Canadian Copyright law has been modified to also protect software authors and publishers. Users who make and use illegal copies of software are subject to the civil and criminal penalties imposed by Canadian Law.

Users should also realize that unauthorized copying of software by users can harm the entire University. If the unauthorized copying of software proliferates the University may also incur a legal liability. This could adversely affect any future negotiations with software vendors aimed at making software cheaper and more widely available to the University community.

The Department views software piracy seriously, and if users are caught running pirated software on University machines, they will be dealt with severely.

Software Access and Manuals

In order to adhere to the above policy on Software Piracy and to protect the Department and University from any liability any software purchased by the Department will be available either from a network server which enforces quotas (number of users allowed simultaneous access) and software copy protection or an installation on a user's local hard disk with quotas and copy protection handled by appropriate software, such as a "key server".

Departmental software media will be kept in a secure area away from general access.

Manuals and other types of documentation may be signed out through the Department secretary for a short period of time.

Software Purchases

Departmental software purchase requests should be directed either to the Department's Network and Systems Administrator or the Department Chair. Each submission should be justified in order to provide a means of prioritizing software needs. This will ensure that the software once received is installed on the appropriate server and it provides coordination of purchases from a limited budget.

All Department purchases must be authorized by the Chair.

Computer Viruses

Malicious computer code, commonly known as computer viruses, can cause users mild inconvenience or can ruin years of work. The deliberate introduction, creation, propagation, or modification of a computer virus on campus by a user will be dealt with severely. It is strongly recommended that users make use of the anti-viral software available in order to protect their data.

Network Etiquette

Brock University's campus network is connected to the Internet. The Internet is a network comprised of over three million computers around the world interconnected by hundreds of data communications networks. Please remember that as you utilize the network and its resources you are an ambassador, representing the University and its community! Any illicit actions by a user may result in the University losing its internet connection. Please use it responsibly!

Electronic Mail

Users must not use the Department's computing facilities to send obscene, vulgar, or harassing messages.

Users must take care in how and what is said in their messages. None of the verbal hints and physical cues you use when speaking in person can be seen by others across a network. Your words generally deliver a stronger message when written than when spoken. As well, be aware that in an educational setting English may not be the first language of the person who wrote what you are reading, so please be tolerant and sensitive to unintentional incorrect choice of words.

InterNet News

The News Reader service (also known as USENET and NetNews) is the largest interactive electronic forum for on-line discussions in the world of education and research, and as a result is vulnerable to bad manners. Please read the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for the groups to which you subscribe. They are posted to the group on a regular basis. One news group that you should start with is news.announce.newusers.

Avoid posting anything on the network until you understand the group dynamics. You risk getting hundreds of scathing e- mail messages (called 'flames') from around the world in return, as well as making a fool of yourself in the eyes of thousands of readers. In extreme cases, you may attract enough attention and complaints to threaten the University's connection to the Internet.

Offensive Material

Offensive materials take many forms in the world of computing and networking. Originators have a responsibility to monitor their material so that it is not obscene, vulgar or harassing. Should you receive material, such as a message, picture, or suggestion, that offends you, tell the originator that the material is unwelcome and offensive to you. Ask that no more be sent to you. If the originator continues please submit your complaint in writing to the Department Chair or to the Sexual Harassment Advisor, extension 4019, if appropriate.

Computer Laboratory Etiquette

The computer laboratories are a resource that must be shared by many users. The equipment represents a significant financial investment by the Department and the University. It must also be realized by users that the Department has a limited number of computers systems. In order to accommodate the number of students enrolled in Department courses and provide equitable access to the laboratories, the Department reserves the right to limit laboratory access to registered users and to post in the laboratories, at the Department's discretion, bookings or access times. The times that the laboratories are available for drop-in use will then also be posted. In some instances it is possible to sign out laboratory keys. Please refer to the Policy on Keys document for more information.

It is also the responsibility of users and the Department to safeguard this equipment and to provide an atmosphere within the laboratories which is consistent with a professional environment.

Unacceptable Behaviour

The following are examples of what is considered unacceptable by the Department and may result in the loss of privileges.

  • Eating or drinking anywhere in the labs or printer room.
  • Disruptive behaviour such as prolonged loud talking, and playing loud music.
  • Monopolizing stations or printers.
  • Installing copyrighted software for which the Department has no license.
  • Installing software without the Department's permission.
  • Modifying the computer system's files, such as modifying the autoexec.bat, config.sys, and system folders.
  • Using screen savers with passwords thus preventing others from making use of the system.
  • Playing games during peak periods. These users must yield their system to those students with work to perform.
  • Displaying, playing, or transmitting materials that may be considered offensive by others.

Acceptable Behaviour

The following are considered acceptable by the Department and will be encouraged.

  • Some of the microcomputer systems in the labs are equipped with their own hard drive. These drives may be used to temporarily store your files for the duration of your work session. These files must be erased from these systems before you leave. Your personal files should be stored on floppy disk. Note that the hard drives will be purged periodically, and no user files will be saved.
  • Conserving disk space, on shared systems. The Department makes regular back-ups of these shared disks.
  • Conserving paper by previewing your work on the computer system before printing.

When using the laboratories, students are asked to clean up after they are finished their work session. Please turn off (at end of day) the monitor and CPU when working on the Macs or PCs. Return your chair to its proper place and place any scrap paper or old printouts in the recycling bin.

Disciplinary Action

Use of the Department's computing facilities entails your acceptance of the above policies. Normally a first violation of these policies will result in an appropriate warning. If the violations are sufficiently serious or persist, further action will be taken through the normal University channels.