In accordance with its mission to disseminate and extend knowledge, to foster the free exchange of ideas, and to provide effective support for its teaching, research, and public service functions, it is the policy of the University of Wisconsin System to afford broad access to information technology resources 1 for university 2 students, faculty, and staff for use in fulfilling the university’s missions, and for appropriate university-related activities.

Access by Individuals

Access to information technology resources carries with it the responsibility for ensuring that the use of these resources is primarily for university purposes and university-related activities, and for maintaining the integrity and security of the university’s computing facilities. In the interest of making the use of information technology resources a natural part of the day-to-day work of all members of the university community, incidental personal use is tolerated. However, one should use non-university sources of e-mail, internet access, and other information technology services for activities of an extensive or recurring nature that are not related to university purposes. For the security of the information technology system, individuals having access to information technology resources must take reasonable care to ensure that unauthorized persons are not able to use their access to the system.

Dissemination of Information and Official Documents

Information technology resources are a dynamic mechanism for the free exchange of knowledge, and it is desirable for the university to foster the robust dialogue that results from the use of the resource, and to encourage students, faculty, and staff to participate in that dialogue Those exchanges that reflect the ideas, comments, and opinions of individual members of the university community must, however, be distinguished from those that represent the official positions, programs and activities of the university. Students, faculty and staff using information technology resources for purposes of exchanging, publishing, or circulating official university documents 3 must follow institutional requirements concerning appropriate content and style.

The university is not responsible for the content of documents, exchanges or messages, including links to other information locations on the internet or world wide web, that reflect only the personal ideas, comments, and opinions of individual members of the university community, even where they are published or otherwise circulated to the public at large by means of university information technology resources.

Inter-institutional Cooperation

During times when they are away from the University of Wisconsin Institution where they are enrolled, students may benefit from the ability to use the information technology resources of another University of Wisconsin campus. To the extent possible with available resources, each University of Wisconsin System Institution should allow access to its information technology resources by students taking distance education and other courses from other University of Wisconsin System Institutions.

Limitations on the Availability of Information Technology Resources

The university’s information technology resources are, by nature, finite. All members of the university community must recognize that certain uses of university information technology resources may be limited for reasons related to the capacity or security of the university’s information technology systems, or as required for fulfilling the university’s primary teaching, research, and public service missions.

Privacy and Confidentiality of Electronic Documents

No information technology resources can absolutely guarantee the privacy or confidentiality of electronic documents. University of Wisconsin Institutions should, however, take reasonable precautions to protect electronic documents containing private and confidential information, and to assure persons using university information technology resources to transmit e-mail or electronic documents that the university will not seek access to their messages or documents except where necessary to:

  1. Meet the requirements of the Wisconsin Public Records Law, or other statutes, laws, or regulations 4;
  2. Protect the integrity of the university’s information technology resources, and the rights and other property of the university;
  3. Allow system administrators to perform routine maintenance and operations, and respond to emergency situations; or
  4. Protect the rights of individuals working in collaborative situations where information and files are shared.

University of Wisconsin System Institutions may choose to establish more detailed procedures for determining when access to electronic documents will be sought by the institution. As encryption products become more readily available, institutions may also wish to make them available to information technology users as appropriate to protect privacy interests.

Other Limitations on Use of Information Technology Resources

In addition to the general principles set forth in this policy, the use of information technology resources may be affected by a number of other legal and ethical principles. While it is not possible to list all potentially applicable laws and regulations, the following are particularly likely to have implications for the use of university information technology resources:

  1. Ethical standards of conduct for the appropriate use of one’s university position and university resources are established for faculty and academic staff in Chapter UWS 8, Wisconsin Administrative Code, and for classified staff in Chapter ER-MRS 24, Wisconsin Administrative Code.
  2. Chapters UWS 14 and 17, Wisconsin Administrative Code, establish standards and disciplinary processes relating to academic and nonacademic misconduct by students, including prohibitions on disruption of university activities, damage to university facilities, harassment, and similar matters.
  3. Chapter UWS 18, Wisconsin Administrative Code, governs conduct on university lands, and applies to all members of the university community. Chapter UWS 21, Wisconsin Administrative Code, regulates the use of university facilities.
  4. Section 943.70, Wisconsin Statutes, defines and prohibits certain computer crimes.
  5. Chapter 11, Wisconsin Statutes, restricts the use of state facilities for political activities by state employees.
  6. The federal copyright law applies to materials published or circulated through the use of computing resources.
  7. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act restricts access to personally identifiable information from students’ education records. Students, faculty and staff are responsible for understanding and observing these and all other applicable policies, regulations and laws in connection with their use of the university’s information technology resources.

University of Wisconsin System Institution Responsibilities

In order to assist members of the university community in fulfilling their responsibilities with respect to use of information technology resources, each University of Wisconsin Institution shall disseminate this policy, together with guidance, as to any specific campus policies affecting the use of information technology resources.

Failure to Comply with Information Technology Resource Policies

Failure to adhere to the provisions of this policy may result in the suspension or loss of access to university information technology resources, appropriate disciplinary action as provided under existing procedures applicable to students, faculty, and staff, or civil or criminal prosecution.

To preserve and protect the integrity of information technology resources, there may be circumstances where the university must immediately suspend or deny access to the resources. Should a student’s access be suspended under these circumstances, the university shall inform the student immediately and shall afford the student an opportunity to respond.. The university shall then determine whether disciplinary action under Chapter UWS 17, Wisconsin Administrative Code, or some alternative course of action, is warranted and shall follow the procedures established for such cases.

1 Information technology resources include computers, software, e-mail accounts, internet access, and similar computing tools.

2 “University” is used in this document to refer to the University of Wisconsin System and its institutions.

3 Official university documents are those which purport to speak for the university and its official programs and departments, such as policy documents, official forms, curriculum information, institutional statistics, and departmental home pages on the world-wide web.

4 The electronic records of university employees are subject to disclosure in accordance with the Wisconsin Public Records Law. Student records, including electronic documents, are protected against disclosure by the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which restricts access to personally identifiable information from students’ education records.


History: Res. 7461 adopted 6/6/97.

See Also:

UPS Operational Policy WE 4, Use of Information Technology Resources

SYS 1030: Information Security: Authentication

SYS 1031: Information Security: Data Classification

SYS 1032: Information Security: Awareness

SYS 1033: Information Security: Incident Response

SYS 1034: Information Security: Acceptable Use

[UW System Administrative policies are included for reference and are separate from Regent Policy Documents adopted by the Board.]