Responsible Use of Computing

I. Scope

This policy applies to all persons who use Mason’s Computing Resources, including but not limited to Mason employees, students, visitors, and contractors.

II. Policy Statement

Mason provides and maintains its general computing services to support the education, research, and work of its employees and students. At the same time, Mason desires to protect all users’ rights to an open exchange of ideas and information.

This policy sets forth the responsibilities of the users of Mason’s Computing Resources.

Because it is impossible to anticipate all the ways in which individuals can damage, interrupt, or misuse Mason’s Computing Resources, this policy focuses on a few simple rules.

This policy allows for investigations of complaints involving the misuse of Mason’s Computing Resources, including complaints of sexual harassment, violations of Mason’s Honor Code, and violations of federal, state, and local laws. Violations of this policy may result in revocation of access, suspension of accounts, disciplinary action including dismissal, or prosecution. Evidence of illegal activity will be turned over to the appropriate authorities.

III. Definitions

“Mason’s Computing Resources” means all computers, systems, workstations, networks, networking equipment, peripheral devices, servers, and any other university property attached to Mason’s network. Mason’s Computing Resources also include all software, programs, files, documents, and databases stored in Mason computing systems.

“Information Technology Services (ITS)” means the university department that is responsible for IT equipment and services within the Mason campus system.

“User” means any person who uses Mason’s Computing Resources.

IV. Compliance

Access to Mason’s Computing Resources is a privilege granted on a presumption that every member of the Mason community will responsibly exercise this privilege by preserving the security, confidentiality, availability, and integrity of Mason’s Computing Resources.

A. All Users. It is the responsibility of all Users to read and follow this policy and all applicable laws and procedures. In addition, when using Mason’s Computing Resources, Users must adhere to the following rules:

RULE 1: Use Mason’s Computing Resources only for the purpose of supporting the educational, research, and administrative needs of the University

• Users may not use Mason’s Computing Resources for recreation or entertainment if such use interferes with the educational, research and/or administrative needs of the University.

RULE 2: Do not use Mason’s Computing Resources to violate other policies or laws

• Do not use Mason’s Computing Resources to violate laws or Mason policies, including but not limited to Mason’s Honor Code, Human Resources policies, or Standards of Conduct.
• Do not extend the Mason network without explicit permission from ITS Network Engineering and Technology. The unauthorized use of routers, switches, wireless access points, and other devices is prohibited by University policy.
• Do not use Mason’s Computing Resources to transmit, store, display, download, print, or intentionally receive obscene material. State employees must also be aware of state laws prohibiting the use of state equipment to access, store, print, or download sexually explicit content.

RULE 3: Use only the Mason account(s) you are authorized to use

RULE 4: Do not use any Mason’s Computing Resources for inappropriate purposes

A non-exhaustive list of example restrictions follows:
• Do not sell access to Mason’s Computing Resources.
• Do not engage in commercial activity not sanctioned by Mason, except for incidental personal use.
• Do not intentionally deny or interfere with any network resources.
• Do not use or access any Mason’s Computing Resources, or read or modify university-owned files, without proper   authorization.
• Do not use Mason’s Computing Resources to in any way misrepresent or impersonate someone else.
• Do not violate copyright laws and licenses.
• Do not violate university policy or federal, state, or local laws.

RULE 5: Honor the privacy of other Users

• Do not access the contents of another User’s files without express authorization from that User.
• Do not intercept or monitor any network communications meant for another person or purpose.
• Do not transmit or distribute personal or private information about individuals without express authorization from the individuals affected.
• Do not create or use programs (e.g., keyloggers) that secretly collect information about Users.

RULE 6: Do not allow another User to access your accounts

Users may be held responsible for actions related to their specific account(s). If a person violates any policies, his or her actions can be traced back to the username, and the account holder may be held responsible.

B. University Employees. Mason faculty and staff, as state employees, are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, §2.2-3700, et seq., of the Code of Virginia, and all applicable state and federal rules and regulations. When using Mason’s Computing Resources, employees must:

• comply with any statute or regulation applicable to university employees including, but not limited to, Commonwealth of Virginia DHRM Policy 1.75 and Code of Virginia § 2.2-2827 prohibiting employees from accessing, downloading, printing or storing sexually explicit materials.
• comply with more specific requirements for the use of Mason’s Computing Resources which are related to job duties and which are communicated through other university policies and standards.

• All employees who must access sexually explicit content to perform their job must obtain University Approval (Procedure to Obtain an Exception for Sexually Explicit Materials) prior to using Mason’s Computing Resources for such work. Faculty and researchers must obtain such approval from the Office of the Provost, and all other employees must obtain such approval from the Office of the Senior Vice President.

• Suspected policy violations should be referred to the appropriate supervisor or department, which may include Internal Audit and Management Services or University Police. In addition, if such violation constitutes fraud, waste, or abuse, the suspected violation can be reported to the State Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline.

V. University Responsibilities

The University acknowledges that personal email, electronic files, and websites maintained on Mason equipment are part of an electronic information environment. While this policy endeavors to maintain User confidentiality, it cannot create, nor should faculty or staff members presume, any expectation of privacy.

The University reserves the right to inspect all User files and communications for all lawful purposes, including but not limited to investigating allegations of illegal activity, violations of Mason policies, or to protect the integrity and security of network systems. The University will investigate all complaints involving personal web sites hosted on university resources and will remove or block material or links to material that violate federal or state law or University policy.

The University considers any violation of this policy to be a serious offense and reserves the right to copy and examine any files or information on Mason’s Computing Resources related to suspected unacceptable use and to protect its resources from systems and events that threaten or degrade operations.

The University may choose to suspend a User’s access to its resources in connection with an investigation. Users are not entitled to any expectation of privacy. User files, network transmissions, computer sessions, data, and/or communications may be shared with appropriate investigating officials.

VI. Sanctions

Regarding employees, the consequences of policy violation will be commensurate with the severity and frequency of the offense and may include termination of employment.

Regarding students, the consequences of policy violations will be commensurate with the severity and frequency of the offense and may include suspension or expulsion.

Regarding all other  persons who send or receive Electronic Communications and use University Equipment/Resources (former employees, retirees, contractors and their employees, consultants, volunteers, and all other individuals who are carrying out University Business), the consequences of policy violations will be commensurate with the severity and frequency of the offense and may include removal of access to University Equipment/Resources.

In addition, consequences of policy violation may include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

• Notification—alerting a User to what appears to be an inadvertent violation of this policy in order to educate the User to avoid subsequent violations.
• Warning—alerting a User to the violation, with the understanding that any additional violation will result in a greater penalty.
• Loss of computer and/or network privileges—limitation or removal of computer and/or network privileges, either permanently or for a specified period of time.
• Restitution for damages—requiring reimbursement for the costs of repair or replacement of computer-related material, equipment, hardware, software, data and/or facilities; such reimbursement shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the cost of additional time spent by university employees due to the violation.
• Penalities—if applicable, the violator may be subject to criminal or civil penalties.

The violation of copyright, licenses, or personal privacy or the publishing of obscene materials or child pornography may result in civil or criminal legal actions as well as university disciplinary actions.


VII. Copyright Infringement

Because the University is the Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the Mason community, it is held to strict copyright compliance standards as defined in 17 U.S.C., the Higher Education Opportunity Act, and other mandates. The process described here, called “Stop It,” will be used to communicate with Mason students or employees alleged to have violated copyright law. This process will be employed when Mason’s Computing Resources have been used to download or upload media illegally using peer-to-peer file sharing software or other methods.

The University does not actively search for instances of copyright infringement or monitor a specific individual’s network activity. However, notices of copyright violations affiliated with an individual’s account are cumulative throughout his/her time at Mason.

Stop It #1 Notice

1. The User is made aware that illegal infringing activity may have taken place via his/her Mason account.
2. The User is required to remove the stated infringing material and any peer-to-peer file sharing software used for this purpose from his/her computer.

Stop It #2 Notice

1. The User is made aware that this is the second instance of illegal infringing activity on his/her Mason account. Receipt of a second notice generally indicates a pattern of downloading rather than a single, incidental event.
2. The User is required to remove the stated infringing material and any peer-to-peer file sharing software used for this purpose from his/her computer.
3. The User must meet with the Head of the Copyright Office, within a prescribed time, to discuss alternative, legal sources of in-copyright content.
4. The User must write, sign and date a letter stating that the infringing materials and peer-to-peer file sharing software have been removed from his/her computer. The Copyright Office retains this letter.
5. If the User does not meet with the Head of the Copyright Office within the prescribed time, that individual will be partitioned from the Mason network until such time the Stop It #2 requirements are fulfilled.

Infringing activity associated with a student’s account may result in immediate partition from the Mason network and may result in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct. Repeat copyright violations associated with an employee’s account may result in civil or criminal legal actions as well as university disciplinary actions.

VIII. Dates

A. Effective Date:

The policies herein are effective October 20, 1997. This policy shall be reviewed and revised, if necessary, annually.

B. Date of Most Recent Review:

December 15, 2020

IX. Timetable for Review

This policy, and any related procedures, shall be reviewed every three years or more frequently as needed.


Maurice W. Scherrens
Senior Vice President

Peter N. Stearns

Date approved: 10/07/02

Revision approved: 1/08/08

Revised: 1/29/2013

Revision approved: 3/19/2015

Revised: 3/18/2017