SHSU faculty aggrieved by ‘over-reaching’ non-disclosure agreement
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 00:10
Some faculty members at Sam Houston State University appear to be upset at some stipulations in the university’s new non-disclosure agreement, according to Faculty Senate Chair Renee James.
“The problem is that we are being asked to agree to things that are too far-reaching,” James said.
The NDA imposes rules on the faculty regarding the use of information through an online agreement. James said some of these rules could affect the use of social networks on campus computers.
“It indicates that SHSU technology can be used only for SHSU business, and that taking a look at, for instance, your Facebook page or CNN here and there throughout the day is forbidden,” James said. “The issue of incidental use has actually been brought up in the past, and it was agreed that a few minutes of website browsing was still an acceptable use of SHSU technology.”
Part of the agreement reads, “I will use my authorized access to Information Technology Resources only in the performance of the responsibilities of my position as a member of the University’s faculty, staff, student workers, contractors, volunteers, vendors, temps, etc.,” and “I will use information technology resources for authorized purposes only.”
Other grievances some faculty members have are with another section about passwords that reads, “Computer system passwords I receive or devise are confidential. I will not disclose any password or post them where they may be viewed by others… I am responsible for any computer transaction performed as a result of access authorized by use of my password.”
James said this would unduly place a burden of fault on university employees if someone were to gain access to their account and cause harm.
“If someone were to, for whatever reason, use my password to carry out some nefarious deed, then I am the one who agrees to be held liable for it,” James said. “Its rigidity is what is putting many faculty members off. It's one thing to ask us to sign something stating that we have seen the NDA, and another entirely to have us sign something agreeing to abide by it, particularly when some of the accepted uses are so narrowly defined.”
The NDA also says that university employees are sworn to secrecy with university “information,” although nowhere is the term information defined outside the definition of “data, information, contracts and/or agreements, and records”. The punishment for not following these can be immediate termination or loss of access to technology.
The Faculty Senate meets today in Austin Hall at 3:30 p.m. to discuss their grievances.
The Houstonian was unable to speak with a university representative by press time after being referred to a university lawyer who was only available to meet after press time. An updated story will be published as new information unfolds.