Deans Reduce Penalty For Bandwidth Violations

The Cluster Deans and Dean of Students recently changed the bandwidth violation policy so that students will no longer receive an automatic disciplinary response for exceeding bandwidth limit. The bandwidth policy was created to regulate student Internet usage. It limited students to 1 GB per week to discourage excessive downloading and media streaming. Now, if a student goes over the bandwidth limit, the school will suspend their Internet service for a week. If the limit is exceeded a second time, the resulting Internet suspension will last for two weeks. On the third occurrence of the violation, the student will lose Internet service for either the rest of the term, or, if less than 7 weeks remained, until the end of the following term. A hearing in front of the Disciplinary Committee could also be called on a third violation, depending on the Cluster Dean’s decision. The previous policy called for suspension of Internet and immediate disciplinary action. The first violation used to be met with a Dean’s Reprimand, the second occurrence with a Censure, and the third occurrence with a second Censure. This previous policy came under debate last year as the Cluster Deans looked for a better way to respond to the misuse of Internet. Marlys Edwards, Dean of Students and Residential Life, said, “It became difficult to see disciplinary actions pile up on a student’s record just because of bandwidth violations.” However, a bandwidth violation involving pornography or copyright issues is a more serious violation and the student will be called in front of a disciplinary committee. The average student’s bandwidth per week is approximately 300 to 400 MB, and the median student’s bandwidth per week is between 200 and 300 MB. Use within the school network, such as Language Learning Center videos, does not count toward a student’s quota. As there are 1024MB per GB, Valerie Roman, Director of Technology, said, “1 GB of usage still appears to be a good sign of overuse.” “Things like e-mail, instant messaging, surfing the web for research, etc. are not heavy bandwidth hogs,” said Ms. Roman. “Sites such as YouTube, Google Video, and iTunes are generally what we see used by those who go over the bandwidth.” Nicholas Barnfield ’09 exceeded bandwidth limit four times last year. The fourth violation occurred two weeks into spring term; as a result, he has no Internet access until winter term this year. Occasionally, classes require students to do something that may exceed bandwidth, such as downloading a video. Ms. Roman said that such a situation can easily be handled by simply “telling their house counselor or cluster dean ahead of time, so that there are no surprises if they show up on the over 1 GB bandwidth list.” The original policy to limit bandwidth was created after a letter was sent to the PA community in May 2003. The letter reminded faculty, staff, and students of the federal law against downloading music or video files from the Internet without permission from the copyright holder. While PA does not monitor computer activity, if notified by an outside agency of a copyright violation, the Academy is obligated to take some kind of action. The bandwidth limit was also created to maintain optimum accessibility speed on to the Internet. Ms. Roman said, “Prior to the policy, there were numerous times when the network was so slow for the faculty and students trying to do their work at night on the internet, because of a few who used a large amount of bandwidth for downloading materials, most of them illegal, and other personal entertainment reasons.” Even though PA is no longer disciplining students for going over the bandwidth limit, the Cluster Deans hope that loss of Internet is enough to caution students.