Faculty Senate Committee Completes Privacy Bill

Posted: November 14, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

“We’ve fashioned a bill and think there’s a good chance it will pass,” says Robert Nadeau, English, of the work of an ad hoc committee established by the Faculty Senate to counter the commonwealth’s policy on the use of state-owned computers and telecommunications equipment.

Nadeau reported on the committee’s work at the Nov. 7 Faculty Senate meeting. Nadeau, who introduced the resolution creating the committee, feared that taken to extremes the policy might allow the state to conduct wholesale searches of data stored on university computers. He was particularly alarmed by the statement: “No user should have any expectation of privacy in any message, file, image or data created, sent, retrieved or received by use of the Commonwealth’s equipment and/or access.”

In drafting the bill, Nadeau says, the committee discovered that enabling legislation used by the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management to draft the policy was much more restrictive than the policy would indicate, and they believe the agency overstepped its authority. The George Mason bill, if passed, would exempt colleges and universities from the new state policy and allow them to continue operating under existing reasonable use of computing policies approved by the attorney general. “The policy may well be appropriate for the Department of Transportation,” Nadeau says, “but not for colleges and universities.”

The committee’s next step is to contact state legislators to get the bill introduced in the Virginia General Assembly.

The Faculty Senate also passed a resolution at the meeting requesting that one of its members be elected to the George Mason Foundation Board of Trustees to represent the faculty’s interests and to keep the senate informed of the Foundation’s activities.

Write to at