University Policy 93
Electronic Mail Policy

Administering Office: Office of the CIO
Approved by: ITPC
Posted: February 22, 2006

University electronic mail accounts are provided and supported by the State of North Carolina to support the missions of the University.

The purpose of this Policy is to ensure the appropriate use of the University’s Electronic Mail System by its students, faculty, and staff. The Electronic Mail System is provided by the University as one of its primary means of official communication. Users have the responsibility to use these resources in an efficient, effective, ethical, and lawful manner. Use of the University’s electronic mail system evidences the user’s agreement to be bound by this Policy. Violations of this Policy may result in restriction of access to the University email system and/or other appropriate disciplinary action.

USER RESPONSIBILITIES

The Information Technology Division maintains the University’s official Electronic Mail System. Faculty, staff, and students are required to read their Electronic Mail System messages on a regular basis. Faculty, staff, or students who choose to use another email system are responsible for receiving University-wide broadcast messages, notices, and personal mail by checking the University's official electronic mail system and the University’s World Wide Web homepage. An alternate method of receiving University electronic mail is to utilize the Forwarding Feature, which can be set to forward mail to an individual's personal email account. An Electronic Mail System message regarding University matters sent from an administrative office, faculty, or staff member is considered to be an official notice. Supervisors must ensure that their University staff and faculty have access to the necessary or appropriate messages distributed via the University’s Electronic Mail System.

PERSONAL USER OF ELECTRONIC MAIL SYSTEM

The University’s Electronic Mail System may, subject to the foregoing, be used for incidental personal purposes provided such use does not violate either this policy or University Policy #52. In addition, personal use must not interfere with University operation of information technologies, including electronic mail services, generate a direct cost for the University or interfere with the user's employment or other obligations to the University.

Privacy of personal electronic mail content residing on or transmitted through University equipment should not be expected. No University faculty member, staff member, or student should use a University Electronic Mail System account with the expectation that any particular Electronic Mail System content, whether personal or business-related, will be private.

PRIVACY OF EMAIL FILES

The University does not inspect or monitor electronic mail routinely. To the extent permitted by law, however, the University reserves the right to access and disclose the contents of faculty, staff, students’ and other users’ electronic mail without the consent of the user. Access to electronic mail on the University's computers that involves reading or disclosing electronic mail may occur only where authorized by the University and only for the following purposes:

  • troubleshooting hardware and software problems, such as rerouting or disposing of undeliverable mail
  • preventing or investigating unauthorized access and system misuse
  • retrieving or reviewing for University purposes University-related information;
  • investigating reports of violation of University policy or local, state, or federal law;
  • investigating reports of employee, student or user misconduct;
  • complying with legal requests for information (such as subpoenas and public records requests); and
  • retrieving information in emergency circumstances where there is a threat to health, safety, or University property involved.

Users of the Electronic Mail System also should be aware that, in addition to being subject to authorized access as detailed herein, electronic mail in its present form cannot be completely secured and is, therefore, vulnerable to unauthorized access and modification by third parties. Receivers of electronic mail documents should check with the purported sender if there is any doubt about the identity of the sender or the authenticity of the contents, as they would with print documents.

Users of the Electronic Mail System also should be aware that even though the sender and recipient have discarded their copies of an electronic mail record, there may be back-up copies of such electronic mail that can be retrieved on University systems or any other electronic systems through which the mail has traveled.

Access by authorized University employees to electronic mail stored on the University's network of computers may be necessary to ensure the orderly administration and functioning of University computing systems. Such access, gained for purposes such as to back up or move data, ordinarily should not require the employee gaining access to the electronic mail to read messages. The University requires employees, such as system administrators, who as a function of their jobs routinely have access to electronic mail and other electronically stored data to maintain the confidentiality of such information.

LIMITATIONS ON THE USE OF ELECTRONIC MAIL SYSTEM

The legal and regulatory environment surrounding the University’s Electronic Mail System creates a number of other limitations on the use of the University’s Electronic Mail System accounts. Most apply uniformly to the use of all State-provided resources. They may be briefly summarized:

Electronic Mail System accounts are for the exclusive use of the individual to whom they are assigned.

No use is permitted that conflicts with the requirements of civil or criminal law, including but not limited to laws relating to the privacy of student and employee records, pornography, defamation, intellectual property infringement, and illegal discrimination, or conflicts with any applicable policy of the UNC Board of Governors or Western Carolina University (including University policy #52), such as use in support of partisan political activities.

No use is permitted that constitutes the unauthorized exchange of proprietary information or any other privileged, confidential, or sensitive information.

The knowing transmission of a message containing a computer virus or that misrepresents the identity of the sender is prohibited.

The use of or attempt to use the accounts of others without their permission is prohibited.

Personal use cannot interfere with a University employee’s obligation to carry out University duties in a timely and effective manner.

The personal use cannot involve sending or soliciting chain letters or sending unsolicited bulk mail messages (e.g., “junk mail,” “spam,” or “MLM”), or otherwise overloading the University’s electronic mail system or negatively interfering with system performance.

Uses that result in commercial gain or personal profit are not permitted, except as allowed under University intellectual property policies and the external activities for pay policy; however, in no case may the University’s Electronic Mail System be used for solicitation of an unrelated, external activity for pay. See University Policy 54 for EPA employees and University Policy 87 for SPA employees.

No personal use may state or imply University sponsorship or endorsement of its message.

ARCHIVING ELECTRONIC MAIL SYSTEM MESSAGES/RECORDS RETENTION AND DISPOSITION

Electronic mail created for business purposes by University employees is a public record and, as such, may not be disposed of, erased, or destroyed unless permitted by law. Just as in the case of hard copies, individual employees are responsible for saving or archiving their Electronic Mail System messages. Electronic Mail System messages that have reference or administrative value but are of a temporary, ephemeral, or transient nature may be deleted when the user has determined that their reference value has ended.

Just as in the case of hard copies, the retention period for electronic mail that must be retained is determined by the type of document being retained. The North Carolina University Records Retention and Disposition Schedule followed by the University, contains required retention periods by category of record. If you have questions about retention periods, please contact the Head of Special Collections in Hunter Library.

Electronic mail may be retained electronically or it may be printed and retained as a hard copy. Due to limited resources, the Information Technology Division has the right to restrict the amount of user space on the primary message server or archive older messages on other servers as necessary.

Electronic Mail System accounts of students who have not registered for a semester will be purged after 30 days. Accounts for faculty/staff who have left the University will be frozen within two working days after the person’s last day and will be deleted after 30 days. This period can be extended for up to three months for faculty and staff if requested by their supervisor before the employee’s last day.

OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY ELECTRONIC MAILS

Not all written communication is appropriate for the Electronic Mail System. In fact, in certain limited situations, the law may require the use of paper originals delivered via regular mail. In other situations, good business practice may call for not only a paper original but, for example, one that is sent by certified mail, receipt requested.

When using the Electronic Mail System as an official means of communication, students, faculty, and staff should apply the same professionalism, discretion, and standards that they would use in written business communication. Furthermore, students, faculty, and staff must remember that matters communicated via the Electronic Mail System may become a public record, may become evidence in a law suit or may otherwise be shared with a broader audience than intended.

Students, faculty, and staff may not inappropriately disclose University information in Electronic Mail System messages that they are privileged to access because of their position at the University

Those wishing to transmit broadcast electronic messages, either to an on or off campus audience, containing essential University announcements to alumni, students, faculty, and/or staff must obtain approval from the appropriate administrative authority. Within the scope of their authority, only the Offices of an Associate Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, or the Chancellor may authorize the transmission of broadcast messages to a wide audience of students, faculty, and staff. Appropriate broadcast of electronic messages may include, but is not limited to, the following types of announcements:

  • Emergency or unforeseen campus-wide events notification (e.g., cancellation of classes or closing of the University due to inclement weather or emergency);
  • Important campus deadline notification (e.g., last day of drop/add for students);
  • Improved services to students, faculty, or staff that directly impact all members of the affected group.

By contrast, broadcast electronic messages should not be used for non-essential matters such as publicizing campus events. Broadcast email messages should be sent only to the affected group (students, faculty, or staff, or a subgroup of one of those groups) and should be of critical importance to that group.

 

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