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Wednesday October 18, 2000

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Disciplinary hearings over network misuse are fair

By The Wildcat Opinions Board

UA Residence Life has disciplined 15 students this semester for inappropriate use of Napster, the infamous music file sharing service provider.

The students allegedly took up too much network bandwidth and would leave the Napster program open for long periods of time. These are violations of the ResComp Acceptable Use Policy.

It is reasonable that the Dean of Students discipline anyone who misuses the Ethernet network. Given that a campus community of over 35,000 is sharing the network, it is unfair for anyone to take advantage of its capabilities.

However, it is also reasonable that the Dean of Students office take extra measures to educate the UA community on its position on Napster in particular. The music file server has been a hotbutton of controversy, particularly among universities, around the country given how popular the service has become among college students. Therefore it probably deserves extra attention within UA's network use guidelines.

Currently Residence Life gives students a warning the first time they violate the policy. The second time, the students face disciplinary hearings.

Because Napster itself has not been deemed illegal, Residence Life is correct to not ban it from campus. However, given its popularity among UA students, it is also fair that the UA pay closer attention to Napster use. Last year Residence Life found that 20 to 30 percent of all network traffic is due to use of Napster on campus.

Clearly, college students all over the country are taking advantage of Napster. UA students are no less immune to its popularity. But they ought to be considerate of the rest of the UA community. If students want to use the Ethernet network to download Napster files or any kind of e-file, they should do so in a responsible manner that allows everyone to enjoy its services.

First, students ought to limit how many e-files they download at once. Limiting this number will prevent them from taking up too much bandwidth.

Also, if students choose to use Napster, they should limit how much time they keep the program open. Once they finish using it, they should close the program so it does not waste bandwidth.

Finally, students should take into account Residence Life's policies on responsible Ethernet use. These policies are not meant to prevent students from enjoying the network's services. Rather, they are meant to allow everyone to use the network without difficulty.

People tend to relate Residence Life's policies to the national controversy over Napster. However, the issue at hand is not Napster, per se. The issue is that those who misuse the Ethernet network ought to be disciplined. Given Napster's popularity and how much of the network's bandwidth that it consumes, it is inevitable that Residence Life pay closer attention to it.

Hopefully the 15 students who were disciplined will encourage the rest of the UA to be careful about their use of Ethernet and is respectful of the services it provides.