WFU administration responds to e-mail privacy issues raised by newspaper

The Wake Forest University administration is concerned that two related articles in Old Gold and Black (September 12) give the false impression that University Police have access to e-mail accounts in the University network. One article, “E-mail: for your eyes only?,” appeared on the front page. The second article, “A force to be reckoned with,” appeared on A10.

Because this matter goes to the integrity of the relationship between the University and the Reynolda Campus community, it is necessary to correct this impression immediately by means of this e-mail message to students, faculty and staff.

It is important to emphasize at the outset that neither the University Police nor any other University office (except for Information Systems as described below) has access to e-mail accounts or other personal files which are serviced by Information Systems.

Wake Forest respects the privacy of the e-mail to and from users of the University computing systems. A policy, called the “Policy on Responsible and Ethical Use of Computing Resources,” was adopted in 1998 by the Committee on Information Technology. This faculty, student and staff committee developed this policy to address various issues concerning the use and misuse by members of the university community of computer resources, such as harassment and unauthorized access to accounts. This policy permits some types of system monitoring by Information Systems personnel in order to preserve the use of the system for its intended purpose of serving the academic community. The policy may be viewed at

Circumstances could arise which present a need for University Police to request access to an e-mail account for reasons such as safety or security. Since the 1998 policy does not generally address such access, the Committee on Information Technology will be asked to consider an amendment to the policy which would clarify all of the circumstances under which access to e-mail accounts might be considered appropriate.

In the absence of current policy guidance regarding a request by University Police, Information Systems would require that an appropriate senior administrator make a determination that the interest to be served by allowing access to an account outweighs the interest in preserving the privacy of communications. If the consent were granted, University Police, through assistance by Information Systems, could have access, but only as far as the consent allowed.

(This statement was distributed by e-mail to Wake Forest students, faculty and staff.)

Categories: University Announcement