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Ethics Code for Computer Users

Computer Facilities operated by Columbia College are available for the use of students, faculty and staff. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use these facilities for research and instruction. In order to make it possible for everyone to have access to computing resources on campus it is necessary to establish fair-use guidelines. Use of Columbia College computer facilities is a privilege and all users are expected to adhere to the following ethical guidelines when using Columbia College computing resources.

General Principles

"Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to works of all authors and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the right to acknowledgment, right to privacy, and right to determine the form, manner and terms of publication and distribution."

"Because electronic information is so volatile and easily reproduced, respect for the work and personal expression of others is especially critical in computer environments. Violations of authorial integrity, including plagiarism, invasion of privacy, unauthorized access, and trade secrets and copyright violations, may be grounds for sanctions against members of the academic community.1"

Ethical and Responsible Use of Computers

The College provides computing equipment and facilities to students, staff and faculty for purposes of work (business), instruction and research. It is a violation of College policy to use College computers for commercial purposes.

  • When working in College Computing Labs users will be aware of and follow rules posted for fair use.
  • Use of College Computing resources for academic objectives takes precedence over use of those facilities for personal reasons.
  • Computer communications systems and networks promote the free exchange of ideas and information, thus enhancing teaching and research, as well as enabling employees to work more efficiently and productively. Computer users must not use electronic communications systems of any kind to send material that is obscene, illegal, discriminating, or intended to defame or harass others, or to interfere with their work on the computer.
  • Students, faculty and staff who use the computers have the right to security of their computer programs and data. Computer users must not access files or information that belong to other users or to the operating system without permission. Employees, students and anyone associated with Columbia College should note that electronic communication (media) and services provided by Columbia College are the property of such and their purpose is to facilitate business, teaching and research.
  • United States copyright and patent laws protect the interests of authors, inventors and software developers in their products. Software license agreements serve to increase compliance with copyright and patent laws, and to help insure publishers, authors and developers of return on their investments. It is against federal law and College policy to violate the copyrights or patents of computer software. It is against College policy and may be a violation of state or federal law to violate software license agreements. Students, faculty or staff may not use programs obtained from commercial sources or other computer installations unless written authority to use them has been obtained or the programs are within the public domain.
  • Security systems for computers exist to ensure that only authorized users have access to computer resources. All passwords are confidential and should not be given out for others to use. The College prohibits the use of another person’s password or identity to access confidential information and files. Computer users must not attempt to modify system facilities or attempt to crash the system, nor should they attempt to subvert the restrictions associated with their computer accounts, the networks of which the College is a member, or microcomputer software protections.
  • Abusers of computing privileges will be subject to disciplinary action. Violators will be subject to Columbia College’s disciplinary procedures as detailed in the appropriate handbook/bulletin, up to and including termination or expulsion. The computer systems administrator reserves the right to examine users computer files and messages to resolve complaints and/or grievances to ensure reliable system operation.
  • Abuse of the networks, or of computers at other sites connected to the networks, or of personnel who assist in the labs will be treated as abuse of computing privileges at Columbia College.
  • Computer users shall cooperate in any investigation of violation of responsible use.
  • Damage to or destruction of any Columbia College computer or computer equipment will subject the offender to disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion and financial reimbursement to the College.


The following are examples of ethical or responsible uses of computers:

  • Using electronic mail to correspond with colleagues at other colleges or universities.
  • Sharing diskettes of files of programs or data with team members working together on a research project.
  • Copying software placed in public domain.
  • Using computing equipment for grant supported research with approval from the Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs.
  • Reporting nonfunctional computing equipment to lab assistants or technical services repair staff, or Residential Life staff for residential hall equipment.

The following are examples of unethical or irresponsible uses of computing resources:

  • Using computer facilities for work done on behalf of a commercial firm.
  • Sending or showing electronic files, such as mail messages or images, containing material offensive to others who may see the file.
  • Copying a file from another computer user’s account or floppy disk without permission.
  • Copying copyrighted computer software for use on another computer
  • Unplugging or reconfiguring computer equipment to make it unusable or difficult to use.
  • Installing software on College computers without permission of supervisor.
  • Downloading materials from the Internet or World Wide Web and submitting them for credit as one’s own work.
  • Downloading or displaying obscene images or messages.

This document was compiled from pieces of the draft computer ethics statement Ad Hoc Committee on Computer Literacy at James Madison University, the statement of Software and Intellectual Rights developed by EDUCOM and from the minds of faculty and students at Columbia College.

1 Columbia College endorses this statement of software and intellectual rights developed by EDUCOM, a non-profit consortium of colleges and universities committed to the use and management of information technology in higher education.


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