Murphy to Review Blue Book Internet Policy

The school is considering adding a passage to the Blue Book outlining the difference between acceptable and unacceptable Internet usage, according to Dean of Students Paul Murphy. The protocol will also establish specific disciplinary responses to improper Internet conduct. The school dismissed a male Senior during a DC last Thursday. The DC involved a video the student uploaded to Facebook on February 11. Murphy said, “Did this case make us want to review the Blue Book? Yes. All disciplinary cases create an opportunity for us to review The Blue Book.” “We will be trying to put a tighter policy together about what gets posted in public areas. The policy would put together a set of parameters for students to follow,” Murphy said. According to Murphy, administrators have wanted to review the Internet usage mentions in The Blue Book since before this disciplinary case. While there is no exact protocol for Internet usage in The Blue Book, there are guidelines for Internet conduct. Murphy said, “The problem is that there is no section [in the Blue Book] that specifically lists Internet protocol and guidelines. There are threads of it everywhere.” “I don’t think we’re on a shaky ground without a policy. Might it be nice to try and have one? Yes. Would it be possible [to write a protocol]? I’m not sure,” he added. The Blue Book policy regarding the broadcast of information on the Internet states, “Users are responsible for both the content and possible effects of their messages on the network. Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to, creating or propagating viruses, material in any form (text, sound, pictures, or video) that reflects adversely on the Academy, ‘chain letters’ (which proffer incentives to relay them to others), inappropriate messages (including discriminatory or harassing material), and billable services.” “It’s how we write the beginning of the Blue Book, which talks about respect for others and respect for discourse. [Internet policy] is also listed in the major offenses section. For now, these should guide people,” Murphy continued. According to Murphy, disciplinary responses involving the Internet are determined on a case-by-case basis. Murphy said broadcasted information that generally constitutes a disciplinary response includes, “Anything that depicts the school or its buildings in a negative light or creates an unwanted or hostile environment.” “In the absence of a specific policy, there is now more of a discussion. Does [the information] reflect badly on the school or create a hostile environment? If it does, we ask students to take the content down,” said Murphy. “Things that are sexual in nature can have a damaging effect,” he added. Facebook is not specifically addressed in the Blue Book. Murphy said, “There are already things in the Blue Book that we can refer back to [for issues regarding the Internet] that have nothing to do with Facebook. They pertain to what’s been in effect for years, we just happen to have a new venue now that needs to be addressed.” Murphy said the introduction of Facebook as a social networking venue complicates the current Blue Book policy on Internet use since the network enables students to broadcast materials more easily. “If you’re a PA student and you make a video that connects to the school, it’s going to have an impact,” Murphy added. Murphy said kids can express their opinions, but any information that targets a group of people and interferes with an individual’s ability to function in the school environment is grounds for discipline. He said, “If you posted a video completely bashing the school and saying that the school is an environment for ‘rich kids looking for a better education,’ I think we would sit around the Deans table and say this doesn’t constitute discipline.” “Your opinion is fine unless it creates a hostile environment, hurts someone, targets a group or gets in an individual’s way of being a normal student here. That’s where the line starts to get crossed,” he continued. Both Murphy and Beckwith said they thought that posting criminal information on the Internet could potentially result in a direct dismissal from the school. Murphy said, “If the information breaks federal or state laws, it would certainly raise the issue.” “[The Blue Book] also says [dismissal] is the most likely course of action for egregious use of harassment, alcohol or drugs,” he continued.