Punishments Established For Bandwidth Violations

Phillips Academy Dean of Students Marlys Edwards announced to the student body last Wednesday the specific disciplinary responses to misuse of the Internet and the community network. This move represents the first time in the Phillips Academy’s history that the administration has established a definitive procedure for reprimanding students who violate the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) outlined in The Blue Book. According to Ms. Edwards’s letter, any student who uses more than 140 megabytes (MB) of bandwidth, or who shares copyrighted material, may be subject to a list of punishments meted out by the student’s respective cluster deans. The current procedure calls for cluster deans to decide on AUP disciplinary action at their discretion. Ms. Edwards noted that changes became necessary “because of the excessive use of the Internet by some students” and that the policy switch “has been in the works for a while.” She commented, “If a student appears [to be] using over 140 MB in a day and that student is not using the Internet for education purposes, the [disciplinary] responses will be automatic.” If a person does appear on the Excessive Bandwidth Report, released weekly to cluster deans and listing the top ten student network users, the appropriate cluster dean will first investigate by talking with the student prior to handing out a punishment. The cut off of 140 MB was calculated by Technology and Telecommunications after observing five random students over a week and noticing that their average use of bandwidth was significantly less than 140 MB. Director of Technology and Telecommunications Valerie Roman observed, “You could listen to HOURS of internet radio without exceeding [140MB].” Mrs. Roman did point out, however, that if a student needs to download a program or a file for a class – most likely for the Music and Art Departments – that will exceed 140 MB, the student should warn his or her cluster dean beforehand. Although PA still allows students to use programs like KaZaA, peer schools such as Deerfield Academy and the Northfield-Mount Hermon School have completely denied students access to such download managers. Choate-Rosemary Hall only permits its students to access “academic” sites alone. Mrs. Roman explained, “We trust that students have the ability to distinguish right from wrong… We have one of the more broadminded policies.” Both Ms. Edwards and Mrs. Roman commented that posting copyrighted music on the network also stands in direct violation of the AUP. Created in late 1996, the AUP has undergone no major changes since its inception. Currently, the AUP deals with three primary topics: the legal use of the Internet, the responsible use of the resources available, and the ethical use of the Internet in accordance to community and Academy standards. Mrs. Roman noted, “There are no changes to the actual AUP but rather to the enforcement of it.” Potential punishments range from Dean’s Reprimand and Censure to a hearing in front of a Disciplinary Committee. All those students caught in violation of the AUP will suffer a loss of service. Mrs. Roman assured, though, that no student will suffer a permanent loss of Internet privileges. In the past, according to Ms. Edwards, only Censure and the loss of service have served as punishments to repeat offenders of the AUP. Across the nation, educational institutions have responded to the overhaul of piracy and copyright violation laws by beginning to restrict the freedom of students on the Internet. Those schools have also dealt with lawsuits from record and music companies on the basis that schools are responsible for their students’ illegal activity. In 1999, hard-rock band Metallica filed lawsuits against Yale University, University of Indiana, and the University of Southern California for increased piracy on the Napster downloading service. The following year, PA Director of Risk Management Susan Stott filed for protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which Congress passed in 1998 to free a school from legal culpability for its students’ Internet usage. Mrs. Roman explained, “If a student does something illegal, then the student is legally responsible.” The DMCA also requires that schools that know of copyright violations within their community take action upon the students implicated. Techmaster Aaron L’Heureux ’04 explained his dislike for the new AUP, saying, “It is not as flexible as it seems. I don’t like the policy… It is sort of inhibiting. There is no bandwidth problem. Even if everyone were on the Internet at the same exact time, there would be plenty of bandwidth for everyone to conduct ‘academic’ research.”