At the beginning of each academic year, advisors go over this document with each of their advisees and obtain their signature.
Statement on Ethics and the Peddie Information Network
The Peddie Information Network (PIN) and the connection to the Internet it provides puts enormous power at the fingertips of all members of the Peddie community. As such, it also places a responsibility on all users of the network. The ethical questions surrounding the network and the Internet are really no different than those in other spheres of Peddie life. Indeed, the Student Handbook provides a complete basis for good decision making with regard to the PIN. On the other hand, information technology evolves so rapidly that Peddie users, and people in society at large, often need help in seeing how our beliefs should be applied to its uses. The purpose of the following is to spell out some of the ethical issues, and describe how Peddie rules and standards apply to PIN uses.
Rules: Page two of the Student Handbook describes the Major School Rules, including:
- We expect you to have consideration for the personal and material rights of others. In other words, bullying others, destroying property, and stealing from others are totally unacceptable behaviors.
- We expect you to be honest with others in what you do and say.
In order to apply this to the PIN, we need only remember that information is a form of property and that all electronic communication (including e-mail, instant messages, text messages and social media) is a form of speech. In this light, it should be clear that electronic mail cannot be used to harass others. It should also be obvious that obtaining a password or rights to another's directory or email on the network is a form of theft just as real as using a stolen key to enter someone's room. Taking advantage of a student who inadvertently leaves a computer without logging out is no different from entering his unlocked room and stealing, reading a personal letter, or destroying his property. Using someone else's password, or posting a message using another's login name is a form of dishonesty just as is plagiarism or lying.
Electronic communication: The rules of conduct concerning the use of electronic mail require some special mention. Peddie treats electronic mail as analogous to ordinary paper mail. We expect students to respect the privacy of email messages, and the school will respect it also. No one will read personal mail unless the recipient gives permission. On the other hand, the recipient of an email message may choose to share it with others. Authors of email messages should consider carefully what they wish to put in print. As a matter of manners, one should not, however, share an email message with a wide audience unless the author has agreed. Similarly, the contents of one's files on the network will be considered private. An exception is made for executable files and programs that may affect the operation of the network. Peddie reserves the right to inspect user directories for such files, and to remove them if found. Note that the privacy of files and electronic mail has limits. If the school has reason to believe that a student’s well being is in imminent danger, or if the police authorities issue a subpoena, Peddie will open and examine the relevant portions of a student mailbox. The following restrictions against inappropriate speech and messages apply to all speech communicated and accessed through the PIN including e-mail, instant messages, social media, web pages, and web logs. Students shall not send obscene, profane, lewd, vulgar, rude, inflammatory, threatening, or disrespectful messages. Students shall not post information that could cause damage, danger, or disruption, or engage in personal attacks, including prejudicial or discriminatory attacks. Students shall not harass another person, or knowingly or recklessly post false or defamatory information about a person or organization. As a simple guideline, students should not write any electronic communication that contains language or content which the author would not be willing to share from the podium at a school meeting.
Copyrighted material: Another issue is the use and/or transferal of stolen (some call it "pirated") software and media. Commercial software, music, films, and other media are copyrighted works, and users must respect the wishes of the copyright holders. If information is a form of property, then violation of copyright is a form of theft. Students should expect this to be handled as a disciplinary matter, much as shoplifting from a local store might be handled. Although Peddie recognizes that the use of illegal software is a common practice, this does not—in any way—make it a legal or ethical one. In some cases the laws of copyright are murky and are rapidly changing, and students need not be copyright experts. The school will provide guidance when needed.
Internet access: Students using Peddie's system to access the Internet must follow the same code of conduct used inside Peddie. Use of inappropriate language, bullying, harassing, etc., addressed to off-campus persons will be treated no differently than if addressed to other Peddie students. Using Peddie's system to attempt to break into other computer systems is also treated no differently than using the login name of another Peddie student. In some cases, Peddie's standards of conduct may be higher than those of outside groups. Regardless, Peddie students are expected to abide by them.
Information from the Internet: Obtaining material that is explicitly labeled as not intended for minors will be considered a form of dishonesty. Further, making public or passing on any material that is pornographic, violent, or otherwise hurtful will be considered a sign of disrespect and a form of bullying and will be treated accordingly. Disseminating the Internet address of sites containing such material can also be cause for disciplinary action. If you are in doubt as to whether something you wish to do fits the meaning of "making public," "pornographic," or "hurtful," consult with a member of the faculty before taking such an action.
Safety: For your own safety, it is important never to give out over the Internet personal information (address, phone number, etc.) to someone whom you do not know. There have been a number of cases of people with criminal intent using the Internet to identify and pursue potential victims.
Considerate and respectful behavior: Students are expected to be thoughtful in their use of the technological resources at their disposal. In particular, we expect students to:
- Treat all equipment issued to them with respect and care, and recognize their financial responsibility for repairs.
- Return borrowed equipment promptly, especially loaner laptops.
- Recognize that the network, Internet connection, and E-mail system are shared resources, and should not be overused by any individual to the detriment of others.
Consequences: Violation of Peddie's rules concerning the use of the PIN will result in the same disciplinary actions that would result from similar violations in other areas of Peddie life. In addition, misuse of the PIN can also result in loss of some PIN privileges. For example, network access from one's dorm room may be restricted, students may be permitted to use only certain computers on campus or access to email or to the network itself may be limited.