Computer Use and File Sharing

Computer and Network Usage Policy

As an institution of higher education, Wilkes Community College encourages and supports an open environment to pursue scholarly inquiry and to share information. The college will not limit adult users’ voluntary access to any information due to its content when it meets the standard of legality as long as this use is consistent with the goals of the academic programs. However, use of the computing and network resources is limited to authorized purposes, and any unlawful or malicious use of these resources is strictly prohibited. The use of the college’s computer resources for political, religious, and other personal or noncollege purposes is prohibited. For additional information concerning the appropriate use of computers and the college network, refer to Policy 7.2 – Internet and Network Acceptable Use Policy. The college reserves the right to limit, restrict, or deny computing resources and facilities for those who violate college policies and/or procedures or local, state, or federal laws.

I. Purpose

Wilkes Community College strives to provide information technology access in an environment in which access is shared equitably among users. This access is intended to be used in support of the college’s research, educational and administrative purposes. college owned or operated computer resources are for the use of college employees, students and other authorized individuals.

This Policy’s purpose is to protect the college’s technology users and computer resources and to ensure equitable access and proper management of these resources.

II. Acceptable Use

A. Acceptable Activity

The college’s information technology resources are intended for the use of its students, employees and other authorized individuals for purposes related to instruction, learning, research and campus operations. Users are expected to exercise responsible, ethical behavior when using all college computer resources. Users attempting to access college resources while outside of the United States will see their access denied.

This Policy makes no attempt to articulate all required or prohibited behavior by users of the college’s computer resources.

B. Unacceptable Activity

Unacceptable activity includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Deliberately downloading, uploading, creating or transmitting computer viruses, malware, or other software intended to harm a computer or the college’s network.
  2. Destroying or modifying directory structures or registries or interfering or tampering with another individual’s data or files.
  3. Developing programs that infiltrate a computer or computing system, harass other users and/or damage software.
  4. Attempting to obtain unauthorized computer access or privileges or attempting to trespass in another individual’s work.
  5. Using hardware or software sniffers to examine network traffic, except by appropriate college personnel approved by the Vice President of Information Technology, to diagnose the network for bottlenecks or other problems.
  6. Using another person’s password or sharing of one’s own password (users should not share their password with anyone and those who choose to do so
    are responsible for the outcomes resulting from the use of their password). Information Technology support staff may request temporary access to your
    password for setup and troubleshooting. Users should verify the identity of the Information Technology support staff requesting the password and immediately change the password after tasks are complete.
  7. Committing any form of vandalism on equipment, communication lines, manuals or software, or attempting to defeat or circumvent any security measures or controls.
  8. Consuming food and/or beverages in computer labs, computer classrooms, library, or in any other areas restricted to protect systems.
  9. Wastefully using finite resources such as large amounts of bandwidth including but not limited to, downloading music, television shows, software programs, and/or movies.
  10. Connecting personal network devices on the college’s wired network. Connecting unsanctioned products (software or hardware) to the college network or installing products for personal use. Special provisions may be made for visiting artists, lecturers, and trainers at the discretion of the Vice President of Information Technology. Information Technology support staff can offer assistance in gaining network access under these special circumstances, but the College cannot guarantee functionality and assumes no responsibility for configuration of or damage to non-college equipment.
  11. Using the college’s computer resources and Network to engage in disruptive, threatening, discriminatory, pornographic or illegal behavior or behavior that violates the Code of Student and/or Employee Conduct.
  12. Disclosing confidential student or personnel information to unauthorized third parties;
  13. Violating copyright laws and/or fair use provisions through: 1) illegal peer-to-peer file trafficking by downloading or uploading pirated or illegal material including, but not limited to, software and music files; and 2) reproducing or disseminating Internet materials, except as permitted by law or by written agreement with the owner of the copyright;
  14. Other activities that interfere with the effective and efficient operation of the college or its Network or activities that violate the college’s Policies and Procedures.

III. Reservations of Rights and Limits of Liability

  1. The college reserves all rights in the use and operation of its computer resources, including the right to monitor and inspect computerized files or to terminate service at any time and for any reason without notice.
  2. The college makes no guarantees or representations, either explicit or implied, that user files and/or accounts are private and secure. No right of privacy exists in regard to electronic mail or Internet sessions on the college Network or collegeowned hardware.
  3. The college is not responsible for the accuracy, content or quality of information obtained through or stored on the college Network.
  4. The college and its representatives are not liable for any damages and/or losses associated with the use of any of its computer resources or services.
  5. The college reserves the right to limit the allocation of computer resources.
  6. The college monitors cyber security threats and reserves all rights to block access from any country, region, or specific IP address. Users attempting to access college resources while outside of the United States will see their access denied. International access must receive approval by Vice President of Information Technology/CIO.
  7. The college makes efforts to maintain computer resources in good working condition but is not liable for damages incurred by loss of service.
  8. College funds may not be used to purchase personal network access or products.
  9. The college shall not be liable legally, financially or otherwise for the actions of anyone using the Internet through the college’s network or college’s computers.

IV. Wireless Internet Access

The college provides free wireless Internet access. Users of wireless access must abide by the Internet and Acceptable Use Policy. Connection to the wireless network at any given time is not guaranteed. The college does not accept liability for any personal equipment that is brought to the college and, therefore, may not assist with configuration, installation, trouble-shooting or support of any personal equipment.

V. Electronic Mail

The college provides free electronic mail accounts to all college employees based on job responsibilities, as determined by the employee’s appropriate supervisor, and to all students who are enrolled in a current program. The use of college-provided electronic mail accounts must be related to college business, including academic pursuits. Incidental and occasional personal use of these accounts is acceptable when such use does not generate a direct cost to the college or otherwise violate the provisions within this Policy.

The college will make reasonable efforts to maintain the integrity and effective operation of its electronic mail systems, but users are advised that those systems should in no way be regarded as a secure medium for the communication of sensitive, personally identifiable information or confidential information. Because of the nature and technology of electronic communication, the college cannot assure the privacy of an individual’s use of the college’s electronic mail resources or the confidentiality of particular messages that may be created, transmitted, received or stored.

The college does not monitor electronic mail routinely but may do so as the college deems necessary. Students and employees should not have any expectation of privacy regarding their electronic mail addresses provided by the college. Any user of the college’s computer resources who makes use of an encryption device shall provide access when requested to do so by the appropriate college authority. The college reserves the right to access and disclose the contents of employees’, students’, and other users’ electronic mail without the consent of the user. The college will do so when it believes it has a legitimate business or need including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. In the course of an investigation triggered by indications of misconduct or misuse;
  2. As needed to protect health and safety of students, employees or the community at large;
  3. As needed to prevent interference with the college’s academic mission;
  4. As needed to locate substantive information required for college business that is not more readily available;
  5. As needed to respond to legal actions; and
  6. As needed to fulfill the college’s obligations to third parties.

Electronic mail, including that of students, may constitute “educational records” as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”). Electronic mail that meets the definition of educational records is subject to the provisions of FERPA. The college may access, inspect and disclose such records under conditions set forth in FERPA.

North Carolina law provides that communications of college personnel that are sent by electronic mail may constitute “correspondence” and, therefore, may be considered public records subject to public inspection under the North Carolina Public Records Act.

Electronic files, including electronic mail, that are considered public records are to be retained, archived and/or disposed of in accordance with current guidelines established by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources or otherwise required by college policy 7.3.

VI. Private Employee Websites and Other Internet Use

When creating or posting material to a webpage or other Internet site apart from the college’s website or approved ancillary external site or page, employees should remember that the content may be viewed by anyone including community members, students and parents. When posting on or creating an external website, students, faculty and staff are not permitted to use the college’s name in an official capacity or use the college’s marks, logos or other intellectual property.

Employees are to maintain an appropriate relationship with students at all times. Having a public personal website or online networking profile or allowing access to a private website or private online networking profile is considered a form of direct communication with students. Any employee found to have created and/or posted content on a website or profile that has a negative impact on the employee’s ability to perform his/her job as it relates to working with students and the community or that otherwise disrupts the efficient and effective operation of the college may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

VII. Violations

Each individual is ultimately responsible for his/her own actions. For employees, failure to exercise responsible, ethical behavior will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Students may be sanctioned according to procedures described in the Code of Student Conduct and other users may be barred permanently from using college computers and network access and suspended or expelled.

Certain activities violate Federal and/or State laws governing use of computer systems and may be classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Those convicted could face fines and/or imprisonment.

Adopted: 08/08/2019
Revised: 01/06/2022

Policy 7.6 – Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

I. Purpose

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (“DMCA”) legally protects a copyright holder from the unauthorized use of his or her digital content. Unauthorized use means violating the user agreement or terms of use for the digital content. Illegally sharing and/or reproducing copyrighted materials such as music, videos, documents, software and photos is considered copyright infringement. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (“HEOA”) includes a provision directly related to DMCA.

HEOA holds higher education institutions accountable for student illegal peer-to-peer (“P2P”) file sharing occurring on college networks. Illegal P2P file sharing is downloading, also known as copying and/or saving, copyrighted material to a hard drive or any other storage device and/or sharing or making it available to other people without the consent of the copyright holder. P2P applications are used to legitimately share digital content. However, P2P applications can expose the college to legal liabilities when illegal file sharing occurs. P2P applications can also present a security risk because a downloaded file may actually contain a virus or a malicious program that could target and infect other machines on the network, impact the performance of the network and compromise sensitive/confidential information.

The purpose of this Policy is to inform the college community on preventive measures that will help avoid legal liability and security risks resulting from illegal file sharing. This Policy applies to any individual using the college’s computer network.

II. Policy

Individuals using the college’s computer network will be held accountable for adhering to the following terms and conditions:

  1. Read the user agreement or terms of use for the following digital content in order to make sure you do not use nor share digital material illegally: documents, videos, and games located on the Internet; social networking sites (i.e. YouTube); purchased digital content (i.e., music, software); and peer-to-peer file sharing applications;
  2. Delete unauthorized copyrighted material from your electronic device (i.e. computer, iPod);
  3. Use a legal alternative to unauthorized downloading. The college does not endorse a particular product or service nor is it responsible for any cost or any technology related issues resulting from the use of the legitimate sources;
  4. Disable the file sharing feature for P2P software if you do not have permission to share the digital material (i.e., documents, movies, games, etc.) legally; contact the software vendor for technical support;
  5. For college-owned devices, P2P software can only be used to promote the college’s mission, academic and business needs. Where applicable, P2P software is not allowed on machines that process and/or store confidential/sensitive data. The personal use of P2P applications on college-owned assets for recreational and leisure purposes is prohibited.

III. Enforcement

Enforcement of this Policy shall include:

  1. Disclosure to students and employees on an annual basis;
  2. Monitoring network traffic and limiting network bandwidth; and
  3. Implementing other technology-based deterrents as needed.

In addition to employment and student discipline issued by the college in accordance with applicable policies and procedures (up to and including dismissal/suspension), individuals cited for unauthorized use may be subjected to civil and/or criminal damages such as monetary damages and potential prison time. According to the US Copyright Office, monetary damages can range from $200 to $150,000 for each act. Criminal prosecutions may result in a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison term of up to 5 years ( for each act.

Adopted: 08/08/2019

Responsibilities Related to Electronically Distributed Information

Students in curriculum classes at Wilkes Community College are responsible for all college-related information distributed through the college website, email, and course management systems. Failure to utilize these resources to obtain such information does not relieve the student of his/her responsibility nor prevent the consequences that may result. This information includes syllabi, course content, notifications, warnings, announcements, etc., that are routinely transmitted to students. This information may be transmitted electronically rather than by the postal system.

Students who cannot locate information or have a demonstrated hardship in accessing information electronically are responsible for identifying their needs to appropriate college personnel in the college’s open computer lab.

Policy 7.4 – Electronic Signatures

It is the College’s intent to provide efficient services for its employees, students and also for the public. The Board of Trustees (“Board”) encourages College officials and students to use electronic means, especially electronic mail, when conducting College business when those means result in efficient and improved service.

The Board encourages the acceptance of electronic signatures in e-mails from college campus accounts. An electronic signature is defined as any electronic process signifying an approval to terms, and/or ensuring the integrity of the document, presented in electronic format.

Students may use electronic signatures to register, check financial aid awards, pay student bills, obtain unofficial transcripts, update contact information, log into campus computers, complete forms, submission of class work, tests, etc. Employees may use electronic signatures for submitting grades, viewing personal payroll data, logging into campus computers, accessing protected data through the administrative computing system and custom web applications provided by the College, etc. College user accounts are to be used solely by the student or employee assigned to the account. Users may not allow access to their accounts by other persons, including relatives or friends. All users are responsible for protecting the confidentiality of their account and for adhering to Policy 7.2 – Internet and Network Acceptable Use.

Adopted: 08/08/2019