Use of Electronic Mail Systems

Policy:

Electronic mail (email) has become a ubiquitous service greatly enhancing communication both internally within the Detroit Mercy community and externally to prospective students, alumni, and the public at large. The purpose of this policy is to describe the appropriate use of University email, associated responsibilities, and rights of all users of official University email accounts.

Use of Electronic Mail Systems:

The University of Detroit Mercy provides computing, networking, telephony, and information resources for access and use by students, faculty, staff, administrators, and other persons associated with the University. These resources include the access and use of the university's electronic mail systems. The University community is encouraged to use electronic mail to enhance productivity through the efficient and cost-effective exchange of information to advance the research and scholarship, teaching, and service and community engagement missions of the University.

The University has the responsibility and duty to maintain the integrity, operation, and availability of its electronic mail systems for access and use by the University community. Access to the University network and its electronic mail systems is a privilege and certain responsibilities accompany that privilege. All electronic mail files which are transmitted and received using University networks or which are stored on University systems are University records.

This policy pertains to the access and responsible use of University electronic mail systems. All who access and use University electronic mail systems must abide by all applicable policies, legal and contractual requirements, and the highest standard of ethical principles and practices when using this university resource.

Use of University electronic mail systems will constitute awareness and acceptance of the responsibilities regarding the access and responsible and ethical use of these systems as presented in this and other access and acceptable use policies of University computing, networking, telephony, and information resources.

Individuals covered:

This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, administrators, and any other person extended access and use privileges by the University.

Electronic mail systems covered:

This policy applies to all electronic mail systems operated or contracted by the University or connected to the University network. The policy also applies to any electronic mail transmission identified (e.g., the From: field in the mail header) with an electronic mail address containing the Internet domain name assigned to the University, i.e., udmercy.edu.

Guidelines on electronic mail use:

Access to and the responsible and ethical use of information technology are essential to the pursuit and achievement of excellence at the University of Detroit Mercy. The University encourages appropriate use of its electronic mail systems to enhance productivity through the efficient and cost-effective exchange of information to advance the University's mission in research and scholarship, teaching, and service and community engagement. The use of these resources must be consistent with these goals. These resources must not be used to impede or hinder the University's mission. The primary use of a University electronic mail system must be related to the University's research and scholarship, teaching, and service and community engagement missions and the person's educational, scholarly, research, service, operational, or management activities within the University. Incidental and occasional personal use is permitted, but it is expected to comply with all university policies and it will be treated no differently than other email messages. As responsible and ethical members of the University community, we are expected to act by the following general guidelines based on common sense, common decency, and civility applied to the University's networked computing environment.

  • Respect the rights and personhood of others. Do not send electronic mail, messages, postings, or materials that serve to abuse, insult, intimidate, threaten or harass others; to interfere unreasonably with a person's work or educational performance; or to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive learning/working environment, especially within the context of other University policies, e.g., Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy. Civil discourse is at the heart of a University free from intimidation and harassment and based upon respect for individuals and a desire to learn from others. While debate on controversial issues is inevitable and essential, bear in mind that it is your responsibility to do so in a way that actually advances the cause of learning and mutual understanding.
  • Messages sent as electronic mail should meet the same standards for distribution or display as if they were tangible documents or instruments. Identify yourself clearly and accurately in all electronic communications. Concealing or misrepresenting your name or affiliation to dissociate yourself from responsibility for your actions is never appropriate. Alteration of the source of electronic mail, message, or posting is unethical and may be illegal.
  • Do not access email files stored in someone else's mailbox unless you have authorization or proxy rights of access.
  • Be sensitive to the inherent limitations of shared network resources. No computer security system can absolutely prevent a determined person from accessing stored information that they are not authorized to access. While the University has no interest in regulating the content of electronic mail, it cannot guarantee the privacy and confidentiality of electronic documents. Good judgment dictates the creation of electronic documents that may become available to the public.
  • Furthermore, be aware that electronic mail sent to recipients at public educational institutions and public agencies may be subject to disclosure under governmental open records laws.
  • Promote the efficient use of University computing and networking resources consistent with the University's mission in research and scholarship, teaching, and service and community engagement. Show consideration for others and refrain from engaging in any use that would interfere with their work or disrupt the intended use of computing and networking resources. Refrain from wasteful and disruptive practices, such as sending "chain letters," "spamming" messages, unsolicited junk mail, "broadcast" messages about non-University business, or unwanted material, either locally or on the Internet at large.
  • Be responsible for the content and maintenance of your electronic mailbox on any University electronic mail system. Check your email frequently. Do not use electronic mail and other network resources for commercial purposes or personal financial gain, without permission from the University.
  • Do not use electronic mail and other network resources to send or distribute copies of documents and files (including audio, video, and graphics) in violation of copyright laws.
  • Before sending to any electronic discussion list or replying to any message from an electronic discussion list, make sure to know the guidelines and policies of that list. Be aware of where the message is going (to the entire list or just to the person that sent the original message).
  • Refrain from forwarding electronic mail messages without a legitimate business purpose under circumstances likely to lead to embarrassment of the sender or to violate clearly expressed desire of the sender to restrict additional dissemination.

The same standards of conduct expected of students, faculty, staff, and administrators regarding the use of telephones, libraries, and other institutional resources apply to the use of electronic mail systems. You will be held no less accountable for your actions in situations involving electronic mail than you would be in dealing with other communications media. You are expected to abide by the security restrictions on all systems and information to which you have access. You should avoid any communication where the meaning of the message, or its transmission or distribution, would be illegal, unethical, or irresponsible. Conduct that involves the use of electronic mail to violate a University policy or regulation, or to violate the rights of another, is a serious abuse subject to a limitation of your electronic mail and networking access privileges and appropriate disciplinary action.

Privacy on University electronic mail systems:

The University community must recognize that electronic communications are hardly secure and the University cannot guarantee privacy. The University will not monitor electronic mail messages as a routine matter. But the University reserves the right to inspect, access, view, read and/or disclose an individual's computer files and email that may be stored or archived on University computing networks or systems, for purposes it deems appropriate. There may arise situations in which an individual's computer files and email may be inspected, accessed, viewed, read, and/or the contents may be revealed or disclosed. These situations include but are not limited to:

  • During ordinary management and maintenance of computing and networking services,
  • During an investigation of indications of illegal activity or misuse, system and network administrators may view an individual's computer files including electronic mail,
  • During the course of carrying out the University's work, to locate substantive information required for University business, e.g., supervisors may need to view an employee's computer files including electronic mail,
  • If an individual is suspected of violations of the responsibilities as stated in this document or other University policies,
  • To protect and maintain the University computing network's integrity and the rights of others authorized to access the University network.
  • The University may review and disclose contents of electronic mail messages in its discretion in cooperating with investigations by outside parties, or in response to legal process, e.g., subpoenas,
  • Should the security of a computer or network system be threatened.

Integrity and confidentiality on university electronic mail systems:

Just as the University cannot guarantee privacy when it comes to electronic mail systems, the University cannot guarantee the integrity of all electronic mail messages, e.g., content and mail headers of electronic mail messages can be modified before they are forwarded to another recipient. The University also cannot guarantee the preservation of confidentiality of any information passing through its electronic mail systems. The University's electronic mail systems should not be used to transmit sensitive or confidential information without the use of more secured methods, e.g., encryption. In general, if the information should not be appearing in a local newspaper, it should not be sent through the University's electronic mail system without the use of more secure methods. Use discretion and keep in mind that an electronic mail message transmitted without the use of more secure methods is similar to a postcard.

Actions of system administrators of University electronic mail systems:

A system administrator of a University electronic mail system may determine within his or her discretion when it is necessary to temporarily suspend access to the electronic mail system to ensure the integrity and operation of the electronic mail system and its availability to the University community. System administrators who suspend access of students to University electronic mail systems should report the actions to the Dean of Students as soon as possible, along with an explanation for taking the action. In some cases, system administrators may need to work with the Dean of Students to make arrangements to permit these students sufficient access to the University's electronic mail to complete course work.

Appeal of an administrative decision

Individuals who disagree with an administrative decision may submit an appeal of the decision to the Dean of Students or Human Resources. Individuals must submit these appeals according to any rules and procedures issued by the Dean of Students or Human Resources.

Noncompliance and sanctions:

Reports of incidents regarding inappropriate use of University electronic mail systems as they pertain to this policy should be referred to the Dean of Students if the alleged sender is a student, to the academic department, if the alleged sender is a faculty member, and to the immediate supervisor if the alleged sender is a staff or administrator. Breach of or disregard for this and other policies and procedures concerning access and acceptable use of computing, networking, telephony, and information resources may result in the denial or removal of access privileges by a system or network administrator, and may lead to disciplinary action under the applicable University's standards of conduct, i.e., Student Handbook and Employee Policies & Procedures.  Additionally, such disregard may be referred to other authorities for civil litigation and criminal prosecution under applicable state and federal statutes. As email is a privilege extended to the University community to facilitate communication, employees should utilize it ethically and within bounds of this and other University policies. Employees can be disciplined for misuse or unauthorized use of email up to and including suspension of privileges for a particular period of time, suspension from the job, or termination. Such actions can be taken by the department head in consultation with Human Resources as part of the Progressive Discipline procedure. In some cases, the University authority handling the incident report may request that the system administrator suspend the access to a University electronic communication system by the individual under investigation. For example, the Office of the Dean of Students may request that access be suspended pending the outcome of a conduct hearing process, or a supervisor or Human Resources may request that access be suspended for an employee pending the outcome of an investigation or disciplinary process.

Legal context for this policy:

Regarding legal context, all existing laws (local, state, and federal) and University policies, regulations, and rules apply, including not only those laws, policies, regulations, and rules that are specific to computers and networks but also those that apply generally to personal conduct.

Review:

This policy will be maintained in accordance with the Acceptable Use & Security Policy.

Emergencies:

In emergency cases, actions may be taken by the Incident Response Team in accordance with the procedures in the ITS Incident Response Policy.  These actions may include rendering systems inaccessible.

History:

  • June 1, 2021: Initial Policy