Trash the Naughty E-mails: Big Brother’s Watching

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Jessica Huang/Guardian

Just when we thought the UC system had outdone itself in the draconian rulebook department, UCSD passed its new Electronic Communications Procedures and Practices Policy.

According to a couple of the document’s convoluted paragraphs, university officials can hand over our ACS e-mails without so much as a “Please” or “May We?” in the case of a legal subpoena.

While this editorial board is confident that no student has ever even heard of a little something called LimeWire, it sure would’ve been helpful to receive more than just a jargony e-mail warning us that no message is safe from the Recording Industry Association of America’s preying eyes.

But of course, it’s painstakingly obvious that — when it comes to communication between the UC and its students — being real with us is never in the university’s best interest.

In fact, the fruition of our new e-mail policy is based on nothing but a few higher-ups’ desires.

The Aug. 2005 communications policy redraft stated that because university policies are often based on federal or state laws, the UC would model its own basic rules on those of the state. So the UC Board of Regents complied with state law, instating a new systemwide policy that each campus would have to incorporate into its own community rulebook.

The message was passed down to then-Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Marsha Chandler, who established a committee to create the policy in 2006. Three meetings and an obligatory two-month comment period later, the policy passed with barely any notice or opposition.

Why wasn’t Chandler slapping flyers all over Price Center and picketing the potentially invasive policy? Why didn’t she stand up against the man and ask for student representation on the committee? It’s an injustice, after all, to let anyone just rifle through our incriminating Facebook notifications like it’s nobody’s business.

Oh, yeah — she works for the man. And at the end of the day, Chandler and the gang are just trying to get their jobs done without rousing a new batch of Library Walk protestors.

So what’s the moral of the story? Students must be the watchdogs for both their (potentially illegal) information and the university’s endless list of sneaky committees — always and forever, until the end of time.

We’ll be the first to admit that we screwed up by letting this policy fly beneath our noses (it probably fell through the cracks somewhere between covering the SRTV porn scandal and dancing through the most epic Sun God Festival of all time), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still dangerous policies drifting around that we can intercept before it’s too late.

The regents passed a nonaffiliate speech policy, for example, which essentially prevents those who are not connected to the university from voicing their opinions on UC campuses. UCSD is currently adapting said policy — an excellent opportunity for students to play a role in one of these shady committees.

A.S. President Utsav Gupta said he’s working to change the e-mail policy, though it’s unclear if he can convince Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Paul Drake to start from scratch just for the sake of student input.

If Gupta can do it, more power to him. In the meantime, watch your e-mails and keep your eyes peeled for drastic policy changes dressed in administrator-speak — they’re more common than you think.