I.T. Times

Volume 6, No 2 Information Technology News of the University of California, Davis October 1997

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Q: I just received an offensive and obscene e-mail message. I've also received other unsolicited messages that are less blatently obscene but still very offensive. What is the proper procedure for reporting such messages?

     Name withheld by request

A: Electronic mail (e-mail) is a powerful communications tool, used by most in positive ways. Unfortunately, it has the potential to be used in annoying, offensive, and sometimes threatening ways.

Most universities have developed policies that define appropriate and res-ponsible use of e-mail. The interim University of California Electronic Mail Policy states that University electronic mail services should be used in compliance with state and federal laws and with "normal standards of professional and personal courtesy and conduct." The UC Davis Acceptable Use Policy on Computing also condemns inappropriate uses of e-mail, including chain letters, mass mailings and messages meant to harass or threaten others.

The procedure for reporting unwanted, offensive e-mail messages is simple. First, open the message in your "in box." Then turn on the full headers. In Pine, this is accomplished by typing ^h. In Eudora, you need to turn on the "BLAH, BLAH, BLAH" feature at the top left corner of the message. (This is an important step since it is difficult to trace the actual origin of the message if the full headers are not displayed.) Then forward the e-mail message to postmaster@ucdavis.edu with a brief explanation of your complaint.

The origin of the offensive message will determine what course of action to take. If the message was sent from a UC Davis computer account, that account will be suspended, and the case will be reviewed with the owner of the account. If, as in your case, the offending message originated off campus, a formal complaint will be forwarded to the Postmaster of that site. If we do not obtain a response, the problem is elevated to a higher management level for review and further action. In general, postmasters take complaints about abuse of services very seriously.

Complaints sent to the Postmaster are handled confidentially and on a case-by-case basis.

UC E-Mail Policy: http://www.ucop.edu/ucophome/policies/email
UC Davis Acceptable Use Policy on Computing: http://it.ucdavis.edu/AUP.html

     UC Davis Postmaster

Do you have a technology-related question? E-mail it to ithelp@ucdavis.edu.