Everyone Goes Over

The cluster deans had their work cut out for them last Tuesday, notifying more than 200 students that they had exceeded the school’s bandwidth limitations. The Department of Technology sees no reason for inaccuracies in their record-breaking list, but many in the community – administrators included – are surprised by the new record. The number of students in violation this week seems innocuous until placed in context: it is more than 28 percent of registered boarding students. Some accused students claim innocence, often citing their own bandwidth monitors. Dean of Students Marlys Edwards believes that “the most reasonable explanation is that students were not being told they were going over [in the beginning of school],” pointing out that without these notifications students were exceeding the bandwidth limit without realizing it. Although some believe that the Department of Technology has made a mistake, others attribute the large spike in violations to new students. It is still unclear what caused this spike in bandwidth violations, but it is clear that we need to reconsider the Acceptable Use Policy. The Acceptable Use Policy needs a new definition. The Acceptable Use Policy is flawed from the inside out. Today, the internet is used for everything. Food, sports, weather, communication, news, education, research, retail, music, movies; just about anything on earth has a www. According to the Cluster Deans citing The Blue Book in an e-mail last Tuesday, “the Internet service is to be used for educational purposes only.” But to students and most anyone on campus, the idea of using the internet solely for educational purposes is a nonstarter. After all, Phillips Academy is our home. The current definition of the Acceptable Use Policy doesn’t just restrict entertainment. For instance, any reasonable person might enjoy the convenience of ordering clothing online, but this would be a violation of the school’s Acceptable Use Policy. Checking the weather, posting on a political blog or paying bills online would also be violations of the Acceptable Use Policy. (That is unless “educational purposes” were defined as something so broad that it would have to include – amongst politics, banking and weather – entertainment.) Instead, the Acceptable Use Policy should be realistic. We should be allowed to use the internet to its full advantage in our lives, including things which are and are not work related. Students are going to visit YouTube no matter what, so what is the point in pretending that they won’t? After all, in moderation, there is nothing harmful about it. Of course these things should be moderated, but then again we must moderate all things in our lives. If most people are going to have non-academic uses for the internet like checking the weather, ordering cloths, reading blogs or even YouTube, our policies should not stand in their way. If you can’t see a line, you won’t know when you’ve crossed it. Students cannot be expected to guess when they are approaching the bandwidth limit. The bandwidth monitors which students have downloaded, on the advice of their cluster deans, are inconsistent and often tell students that they have far more bandwidth available then they actually do. Whether or not installing bandwidth monitors on students computers is practical at the point, to have a policy that students often don’t know if they are violating is frustrating and incredibly unfair. We know when we drink, lie, cheat, or break the rules in any other way, but to not to know if we are going to break the rules is wholly unfair. The Technology Department must find a solution to this problem, so that all students can effectively manage their bandwidth.