Be Careful What You Download

Ten o’clock Monday night, Mr. Washburn, the cluster dean of West Quad South, sent out an e-mail warning students against bandwidth violations. In words that garnered attention throughout campus, he urged students to stay away from “the porn.” For at least a few days, “the porn” became the new catch phrase around the Quads. And while most students found this amusing, his comments bring up an issue that warrants further discussion. “We are seeing a real increase in the number of you who are going over the acceptable amount of bandwidth use,” Mr. Washburn made clear in his public service message. But why have we seen an increase in bandwidth violations? The answer seems simple enough: downloadable songs, music videos, and full-length movies, all of which are conveniently available to a bored and overworked student body. Only in recent months has iTunes added feature films to its list of downloadable media. In addition, Mr. Washburn asserted that sites like and, which are frequented by students, can consume a lot of bandwidth. However, the most significant point is also the most controversial: “the porn,” as Mr. Washburn put it. According to the Appriopriate Use Policy of The Blue Book, “the academy prohibits faculty, staff and students from keeping pornography in any form at school, including, but not limited to, magazines, posters, videos, electronic files or other electronic materials.” In addition, it goes on to state that using the academy’s network to “create, access, download, edit, view, store, send or print materials that are…pornographic…is prohibited.” But staying away from “the porn” means much more than avoiding a simple rule violation. There is a legal side to this issue too, which perhaps makes the conversation all the more significant. Are students accessing websites which not only violate Academy rules, but also the law? After all, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to view pornographic materials. In this writer’s opinion, not only are such violations occurring, but they are as common as visiting Wikipedia. It would be both ignorant and imprudent to believe otherwise. So the next question is, what, if anything is the Academy doing stop students from accessing these illegal websites. According the Privacy Expectations of the Acceptable Use Policy, “the academy reserves the right to access, view or monitor any information or communication stored or transmitted over its network.” Quite simply, that means that it is completely within the Administration’s power to monitor your internet usage. However, are they doing so? The Blue Book does not specify how or if the Administration typically monitors students’ internet usage. It seems that most students assume they do not, or perhaps the results of my poll would have been different. But Mr. Washburn’s words at the beginning of this week implied otherwise. “Stay away from the porn,” he warned, or “this could lead to more than just losing your internet for one week.” This implies that the Administration is (or may be) checking up on students who go over bandwidth; looking over their shoulders to see how they have been using the Academies’ resources. They have left this issue rather vague. While no administrator to my knowledge has ever said that students are being monitored, neither has any administrator ever said they are not. Perhaps this is their way of enforcing the Appropriate Use Policy. Although ceding the ability to monitor all internet usage, they deter students from abusing school technology by making vague warnings, which may or may not reflect the truth. I do not believe that it is the intention of the Administration to look over our shoulders. Whether students can appreciate it or not, the Administration has endowed in us a great deal of trust; they cannot monitor us all, so they must rely on our stronger convictions. Teenagers have found ways to view porn since the original “nudie” magazine was first printed. They will continue to do so as long as pornography exists. It would be foolish to believe otherwise. So, while the Academy must enforce its policies as best it can, students must be trusted to do what they think is appropriate.