No deadline for Web policy change


By Jackie Nevarez

Changes to the university’s Acceptable Use Policy have no set date, but they will be made by the Computing Facilities Advisory Committee and Brett Coryell, vice president and chief information officer, in the coming months.

Acceptable Use Policy

An Aug. 20 post on the technology blog BetaBeat caused outrage on the Internet when the blog reported NIU’s Acceptable Use Policy was banning students from accessing websites that included social media and pornography.

The report was based on a Reddit post by a user who was shown a pop-up saying his or her access to the site was “automatically blocked momentarily due to the type of content or site risk” after accessing a Wikipedia page through the campus network.

“As those firewalls were blocking no hostile traffic outbound, they were also analyzing for other types of … traffic flow that wouldn’t be acceptable,” Coryell told University Council Wednesday.

Coryell said those firewalls were only meant to block illegal websites, like those containing child pornography or abuse, but the firewall blocked the Wikipedia page due to a categorization error.

According to the Acceptable Use Policy, employees using work time to check social media websites is an unacceptable use of resources in accordance with the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, but this does not affect students, Coryell said.

“The problem with [the policy] is that it will say things like, ‘It is prohibited to [use the Internet] for the excessive use of social media …,” Coryell told University Council. “And that got turned instantly into NIU is blocking social media sites.”

Raquel Chavez, Student Association vice president, asked Coryell at University Council how soon an update to the policy would come, as she said students want an answer for that. Coryell said the Computing Facilities Advisory Committee, the advisory committee to the chief information officer, will review the process of revising the Acceptable Use Policy at its next meeting on Oct. 3, but he does not know how long the revision to separate the acceptable uses for employees and students will take.

Networking changes

Over the summer, a firewall was put in place. It is blocking more than 1,000 malicious attacks an hour, every day, Coryell said, and he expects that number to grow in the coming weeks. The firewalls are protecting the wireless network and a small portion of the wired network.

Coryell said the whole campus will be protected by the firewall in about six weeks.

Campus systems like PeopleSoft and Blackboard did have firewalls to prevent and block hackers, Coryell said, but wireless systems were open to the Internet.

“I think our networking architecture was set back in a time when the Internet was a more friendly place, but it is certainly not a friendly place today,” Coryell told University Council.


MyEdu, a company purchased by Blackboard earlier this year, provides a Web feature that allows students to organize their academic achievements and display them on an online portfolio for future employers, Coryell said.

A change to NIU’s Blackboard system may include the addition of these student profiles.

“Right now, Blackboard has a partnership with a company that had a base of 25 million jobs out there,” Coryell said. “The software would take your skills … and match them proactively to those jobs.”

Coryell said the proposed addition to Blackboard is in the “business case stage,” where costs and interests are being calculated to see if the idea could work.