Internet policy outrage was preventable with notification

NIU could and should have prevented misunderstanding of the warning pages that appeared when using campus Internet last week, sparking outrage across the Web.

Some mistook the warning notices — which could be bypassed — for notices a page was blocked, and students spoke out against an authentication process NIU also implemented that forced network users to enter identifying information before they could access some sites. Blogging sites reported pages were blocked, adding to the confusion. But, NIU has said it only intends to block sites with malicious code.

NIU spokesman Paul Palian and other officials have said the warnings and authentication pages were aimed at reminding employees they may not use their work computers for personal use in accordance with the university’s Acceptable Use Policy and State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Students, faculty and staff are granted access to the campus network “based on a common sense, decency, ethical use, civility and security applied to the computing environment,” according to the Acceptable Use Policy.

NIU should have used its social media accounts, email and other measures to notify students, faculty and staff of the implementation of the warnings and authentication pages well before people started to move back to DeKalb.

The university released an official announcement addressing the changes Aug. 21, several days after the controversy broke out. The announcement was made too late for students and others to react appropriately.

The authentication process and warnings no longer appear to be active, and Chief Information Officer Brett Coryell said they had been or would be removed soon on Monday, but there are still students who are unaware of the Internet’s policies and think NIU has blocked websites. They are inadvertently continuing an controversy that may not have occurred had they been given proper information on the warnings.

It will take more time until rumors eventually fade away.