Skip to main content

Services & Policies: Computer Use

Yes, we've got a policy for that!

CUNY Policy on Acceptable Use of Computer Resources


CUNY’s computer resources are dedicated to the support of the University’s mission of
education, research and public service. In furtherance of this mission, CUNY respects, upholds
and endeavors to safeguard the principles of academic freedom, freedom of expression and
freedom of inquiry.

CUNY recognizes that there is a concern among the University community that because
information created, used, transmitted or stored in electronic form is by its nature susceptible to
disclosure, invasion, loss, and similar risks, electronic communications and transactions will be
particularly vulnerable to infringements of academic freedom. CUNY’s commitment to the
principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression includes electronic information.
Therefore, whenever possible, CUNY will resolve doubts about the need to access CUNY
Computer Resources in favor of a User’s privacy interest.
However, the use of CUNY Computer Resources, including for electronic transactions and
communications, like the use of other University-provided resources and activities, is subject to
the requirements of legal and ethical behavior. This policy is intended to support the free
exchange of ideas among members of the CUNY community and between the CUNY
community and other communities, while recognizing the responsibilities and limitations
associated with such exchange.

This policy applies to all Users of CUNY Computer Resources, as defined in Article III below.
This policy supersedes the CUNY policy titled “CUNY Computer User Responsibilities” and
any college policies that are inconsistent with this policy.

  1. “CUNY Computer Resources” refers to all computer and information technology
hardware, software, data, access and other resources owned, operated, or contracted by
CUNY. This includes, but is not limited to, desktop and laptop computers, handheld
devices that allow or are capable of storing and transmitting information (e.g., cell
phones, tablets), mainframes, minicomputers, servers, network facilities, databases,
memory, memory sticks, and associated peripherals and software, and the applications
they support, such as e-mail, cloud computing applications, and access to the internet.
  2. “E-mail” includes point-to-point messages, postings to newsgroups and listservs, and
other electronic messages involving computers and computer networks.
  3. “Faculty” includes full-time, part-time, and adjunct faculty.
  4. “FOIL” is the New York State Freedom of Information Law.
  5. “Non-Public University Information” has the meaning set forth in CUNY’s IT Security
Policies and Procedures found at, namely: personally identifiable
information (such as an individual’s Social Security Number; driver’s license number or
non-driver identification card number; account number, credit or debit card number, in
combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit
access to an individual’s financial account; personal electronic mail address; Internet
identification name or password; and parent’s surname prior to marriage); information in
student education records that is protected under the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and the related regulations set forth in 34 CFR Part 99;
other information relating to the administrative, business, and academic activities and
operations of the University (including employee evaluations, employee home addresses
and telephone numbers, and other employee records that should be treated
confidentially); and any other information available in University files and systems that
by its nature should be treated confidentially .
  6. “User” means a user of CUNY Computer Resources, including all current and former
users, whether affiliated with CUNY or not, and whether accessing those resources on a
CUNY campus or remotely.

  1. Authorization.
    a. Users may not access a CUNY Computer Resource without authorization or use it
for purposes beyond the scope of authorization. This includes attempting to
circumvent CUNY Computer Resource system protection facilities by hacking,
cracking or similar activities, accessing or using another person’s computer
account, and allowing another person to access or use the User’s account.
    b. Notwithstanding subsection 1.a. above, a User may authorize a colleague or
clerical assistant to access information under the User’s account on the User’s
behalf while away from a CUNY campus or when the User is unable to efficiently
access the information on the User’s own behalf (including as a result of a
disability), but delegated access will be subject to the rules of Section 10 –
Security, below.
    c. CUNY Computer Resources may not be used to gain unauthorized access to
another computer system within or outside of CUNY. Users are responsible for
all actions performed from their computer account that they permitted or failed to
prevent by following ordinary security precautions. CUNY advisories and
resources are available at
  2. Purpose.
    a. Use of CUNY Computer Resources is limited to activities relating to the
performance by CUNY employees of their duties and responsibilities and by
students in connection with their college courses and activities. For example, use
of CUNY Computer Resources for private commercial or not-for-profit business
purposes, for private advertising of products or services, or for any activity meant
solely to foster personal gain, is prohibited. Similarly, use of CUNY Computer
Resources for partisan political activity is also prohibited.
    b. Except with respect to CUNY employees other than faculty, where a supervisor
has prohibited it in writing, incidental personal use of CUNY Computer
Resources is permitted so long as such use does not interfere with CUNY
operations, does not compromise the functioning of CUNY Computer Resources,
does not interfere with the User’s employment or other obligations to CUNY, and
is otherwise in compliance with this policy, including subsection 2.a. above.
Users should be aware that personal messages, data and other information sent or
received through a User’s CUNY account or otherwise residing in a CUNY
Computer Resource are subject to CUNY review pursuant to Section 13 of this
policy and may also be subject to public disclosure pursuant to FOIL.

  3. Compliance with Law.
    a. CUNY Computer Resources may not be used for any purpose or in any manner
that violates CUNY rules, regulations or policies, or federal, state or local law.
Users who engage in electronic communications with persons in other states or
countries or on other systems or networks may also be subject to the laws of those
other states and countries, and the rules and policies of those other systems and
networks. Users are responsible for ascertaining, understanding, and complying
with the laws, rules, policies, contracts, and licenses applicable to their particular
    b. Examples of applicable federal and state laws include those addressing
defamation, invasion of privacy, obscenity and child pornography, and online
gambling, as well as the following:
        Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
        Copyright Act of 1976
        Electronic Communications Privacy Act
        Export control regulations issued by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State
and Treasury
        Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
        New York State Law with respect to the confidentiality of library records
    c. Examples of applicable CUNY rules and policies include those listed below.
Other rules and policies may be found in the Manual of General Policy and on the
        CUNY Legal Affairs website:
        Gramm-Leach-Bliley Information Security Program
        IT Security Policies & Procedures
        Policy on Maintenance of Public Order (the “Henderson Rules”)
        Sexual Harassment Policy
        University Policy on Academic Integrity
        Web Site Privacy Policy

  4. Licenses and Intellectual Property.
    a. Users may use only legally obtained, licensed data or software and must comply
with applicable licenses or other contracts, as well as copyright, trademark and
other intellectual property laws.
    b. Much of what appears on the internet and/or is distributed via electronic
communication is protected by copyright law, regardless of whether the copyright
is expressly noted. Users should generally assume that material is copyrighted
unless they know otherwise, and not copy, download or distribute copyrighted
material without permission unless the use does not exceed fair use as defined by
the federal Copyright Act of 1976. Protected material may include, among other
things, text, photographs, audio, video, graphic illustrations, and computer
software. Additional information regarding copyright and file sharing is available
on the CUNY Legal Affairs website.

  5. False Identity and Harassment. Users may not employ a false identity, mask the
identity of an account or computer, or use CUNY Computer Resources to engage in
abuse of others, such as sending harassing, obscene, threatening, abusive, deceptive, or
anonymous messages within or outside CUNY.

  6. Confidentiality.
    a. Users may not invade the privacy of others by, among other things, viewing,
copying, redistributing, posting such data to the Internet, modifying or destroying
data or programs belonging to or containing personal or confidential information
about others, without explicit permission to do so.
    b. CUNY employees must take precautions by following all IT Security Policies and
Procedures to protect the confidentiality of Non-Public University Information
encountered in the performance of their duties or otherwise.

7. Integrity of Computer Resources. Users may not install, use or develop programs
intended to infiltrate or damage a CUNY Computer Resource, or which could reasonably
be expected to cause, directly or indirectly, excessive strain or theft of confidential data
on any computing facility. This includes, but is not limited to, programs known as
computer viruses, Trojan horses, and worms. Users should consult with the IT director at
their college before installing any programs on CUNY Computer Resources that they are
not sure are safe or may cause excess strain.

  8. Disruptive Activities.
    a. CUNY Computer Resources must not be used in a manner that could reasonably
be expected to cause or does cause, directly or indirectly, unwarranted or
unsolicited interference with the activity of other users, including:

i. chain letters, virus hoaxes or other e-mail transmissions that potentially
disrupt normal e-mail service;
ii. spamming, junk mail or other unsolicited mail that is not related to CUNY
business and is sent without a reasonable expectation that the recipient
would welcome receiving it;
iii. the inclusion on e-mail lists of individuals who have not requested
membership on the lists, other than the inclusion of members of the
CUNY community on lists related to CUNY business; and
iv. downloading of large videos, films or similar media files for personal use.

  b. CUNY has the right to require Users to limit or refrain from other specific uses if,
in the opinion of the IT director at the User’s college, such use interferes with
efficient operations of the system, subject to appeal to the President or, in the case
of central office staff, to the Chancellor.

  9. CUNY Names and Trademarks.
    a. CUNY names, trademarks and logos belong to the University and are protected
by law. Users of CUNY Computer Resources may not state or imply that they
speak on behalf of CUNY or use a CUNY name, trademark or logo without
authorization to do so. Affiliation with CUNY does not, by itself, imply
authorization to speak on behalf of CUNY.
    b. Notwithstanding subsection 9.a. above, CUNY employees and students may
indicate their CUNY affiliation on e-mail, other correspondence, and in academic
or professionally-related research, publications or professional appearances, so
long as they do not state or imply that they are speaking on behalf of the

  10. Security.
    a. CUNY employs various measures to protect the security of its computer resources
and of Users’ accounts. However, CUNY cannot guarantee such security. Users
are responsible for engaging in safe computing practices such as guarding and not
sharing their passwords, changing passwords regularly, logging out of systems at
the end of use, and protecting Non-Public University Information, as well as for
following CUNY’s IT Security Policies and Procedures.
    b. Users must report incidents of non-compliance with IT Security Policies and
Procedures or other security incidents to the University Chief Information Officer
and Chief Information Security Officer, and the Chief Information Officer at the
affected User’s college.

  11. Filtering. CUNY reserves the right to install spam, anti-malware, and spyware filters
and similar devices if necessary in the judgment of CUNY’s Office of Information
Technology or a college IT director to protect the security and integrity of CUNY
Computer Resources. CUNY will not install filters that restrict access to e-mail, instant
messaging, chat rooms or websites based solely on content, unless such content is illegal,
such as child pornography sites.

  12. Confidential Research Information. Principal investigators and others who use CUNY
Computer Resources to collect, examine, analyze, transmit or store research information
that is required by law or regulation to be held confidential or for which a promise of
confidentiality has been given are responsible for taking steps to protect such confidential
research information from unauthorized access or modification. In general, this means
storing the information on a computer or auxiliary hard drive that provides strong access
controls (passwords) and encrypting files, documents, and messages for protection
against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure while in storage or in transit over data
networks. Robust encryption and passwords must be used to protect Non-Public
University Information, and is strongly recommended for information stored
electronically on all computers, especially portable devices such as notebook computers,
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and portable data storage (e.g., auxiliary hard drives,
memory sticks) that are vulnerable to theft or loss, as well as for information transmitted
over public networks. Software and protocols used should be reviewed and approved by
CUNY’s Office of Information Technology. In addition, the steps taken to protect such
confidential research information should be included in submissions to the CUNY
Institutional Review Board reviewing the research protocol.

  13. CUNY Access to Computer Resources.
    a. Copying. CUNY may copy a User’s account and/or hard drive on a CUNY
Computer Resource, without monitoring or inspecting the contents of such
account and/or hard drive, at any time for preservation of data or evidence,
without notice to the User.
    b. General Monitoring Practices. CUNY does not routinely monitor, inspect, or
disclose individual usage of CUNY Computer Resources without the User’s
consent. In most instances, if the University needs information located in a
CUNY Computer Resource, it will simply request it from the author or custodian.
However, CUNY IT professionals and staff do regularly monitor general usage
patterns as part of normal system operations and maintenance and might, in
connection with these duties, observe the contents of web sites, e-mail or other
electronic communications. Except as provided in this policy or by law, these
individuals are not permitted to seek out contents or transactional information, or
disclose or otherwise use what they have observed. Nevertheless, because of the
inherent vulnerability of computer technology to unauthorized intrusions, Users
have no guarantee of privacy during any use of CUNY computer resources or in
any data in them, whether or not a password or other entry identification or
encryption is used. Users may expect that the privacy of their electronic
communications and of any materials stored in any CUNY Computer Resource
dedicated to their use will not be intruded upon by CUNY except as outlined in
this policy.
    c. Monitoring without Notice.
      i. Categories. CUNY may specifically monitor or inspect the activity and
accounts of individual users of CUNY computer resources, including
individual login sessions, e-mail and other communications, without
notice, in the following circumstances:
         A. when the User has voluntarily made them accessible to the public,
as by posting to Usenet or a web page;
         B. when it is reasonably necessary to do so to protect the integrity,
security, or functionality of CUNY or other computer resources, as
determined by the college chief information officer or his or her
designee, after consultation with CUNY’s chief information officer
or his or her designee;
         C. when it is reasonably necessary to diagnose and resolve technical
problems involving system hardware, software, or
communications, as determined by the college chief information
officer or his or her designee, after consultation with CUNY’s
chief information officer or his or her designee;
         D. when it is reasonably necessary to determine whether CUNY may
be vulnerable to liability, or when failure to act might result in
significant bodily harm, significant property loss or damage, or
loss of evidence, as determined by the college president or a vice
president designated by the president or, in the case of the Central
Office by the Chancellor or his or her designee, after consultation
with the Office of General Counsel and the Chair of the University
Faculty Senate (if a current CUNY faculty member’s account or
activity is involved) or Vice Chair if the Chair is unavailable;
         E. when there is a reasonable basis to believe that CUNY policy or
federal, state or local law has been or is being violated, as
determined by the college president or a vice president designated
by the president or, in the case of the Central Office by the
Chancellor or his or her designee, after consultation with the
Office of General Counsel and the Chair of the University Faculty
Senate (if a current CUNY faculty member’s account or activity is
involved) or Vice Chair if the Chair is unavailable;
         F. when an account appears to be engaged in unusual or unusually
excessive activity, as indicated by the monitoring of general
activity and usage patterns, as determined by the college president
or a vice president designated by the president and the college
chief information officer or his or her designee or, in the case of
the Central Office by the Chancellor or his or her designee, after
consultation with CUNY’s chief information officer or his or her
designee, the Office of General Counsel, and the Chair of the
University Faculty Senate (if a current CUNY faculty member’s
account or activity is involved) or Vice Chair if the Chair is
unavailable; or
         G. as otherwise required by law.
      ii. Procedures. In those situations in which the Chair of the University
Faculty Senate is to be consulted prior to monitoring or inspecting an
account or activity, the following procedures shall apply:
         A. if the monitoring or inspection of an account or activity requires
physical entry into a faculty member’s office, the faculty member
shall be advised prior thereto and shall be permitted to be present
to observe, except where specifically forbidden by law; and
         B. the college president or the Chancellor, as the case may be, shall
report the completion of the monitoring or inspection to the Chair
and the CUNY employee affected, who shall also be told the
reason for the monitoring or inspection, except where specifically
forbidden by law.
      iii. Other Disclosure.
         A. CUNY, in its discretion, may disclose the results of any general or
individual monitoring or inspection to appropriate CUNY
personnel or agents, or law enforcement or other agencies. The
results may be used in college disciplinary proceedings, discovery
proceedings in legal actions, or otherwise as is necessary to protect
the interests of the University.
         B. In addition, users should be aware that CUNY may be required to
disclose to the public under FOIL communications made by means
of CUNY Computer Resources whether in conjunction with
University business or as incidental personal use.
         C. Any disclosures of activity of accounts of individual Users to
persons or entities outside of CUNY, whether discretionary or
required by law, shall be approved by the General Counsel and
shall be conducted in accordance with any applicable law. Except
where specifically forbidden by law, CUNY employees subject to
such disclosures shall be informed promptly after the disclosure of
the actions taken and the reasons for them.
      iv. Annual Statement. The Office of General Counsel shall issue an annual
statement of the instances of account monitoring or inspection that fall
within categories D through G above. The statement shall indicate the
number of such instances and the cause and result of each. No personally
identifiable data shall be included in this statement.
      v. Privacy Policy. See CUNY’s Web Site Privacy Policy for additional
information regarding data collected by CUNY from visitors to the CUNY
website at

  14. Waiver of Policy
    a. A CUNY employee or student may apply to the General Counsel for an exception
or waiver from one or more of the provisions of this policy. Such application may
be for a single use or for periodic or continuous uses, such as in connection with a
course or program. Any application for a waiver should be made prior to using
the CUNY Computer Resource for the purposes described in the application.
    b. The written waiver application must state:
      i. the policy provision or provisions for which the User is seeking a waiver;
      ii. how the User plans to use CUNY Computer Resource to be covered by the
waiver and the reasons why the User believes a waiver should be
      iii. if the waiver involves confidential research information, what steps will be
taken to protect such information;
      iv. the length of time for which the waiver is being requested; and
      v. if a student, how and by whom the student will be supervised.
    c. The General Counsel shall consult with the CUNY’s chief information officer and
the president of the applicant’s college (or, if the applicant is a Central Office
employee, the Chancellor) or their designees, prior to making a determination
regarding the application.
    d. Users should be aware that CUNY cannot waive federal, state or local law; for
example, the contents of CUNY Computer Resources (including confidential
research information) may be subject to a valid subpoena regardless of the terms
of any waiver.

  15. Enforcement.
    a. Violation of this policy may result in suspension or termination of an individual’s
right of access to CUNY Computer Resources, disciplinary action by appropriate
CUNY authorities, referral to law enforcement authorities for criminal
prosecution, or other legal action, including action to recover civil damages and
    b. Violations will normally be handled through the University disciplinary
procedures applicable to the relevant User. For example, alleged violations by
students will normally be investigated, and any penalties or other discipline will
normally be imposed, by the Office of Student Affairs.
    c. CUNY has the right to temporarily suspend computer use privileges and to
remove from CUNY computer resources material it believes violates this policy,
pending the outcome of an investigation of misuse or finding of violation. This
power may be exercised only by the president of each college or the Chancellor.

  16. Additional Rules. Additional rules, policies, guidelines and/or restrictions may be in
effect for specific computers, systems, or networks, or at specific computer facilities at
the discretion of the directors of those facilities. Any such rules which potentially limit
the privacy or confidentiality of electronic communications or information contained in
or delivered by or over CUNY Computer Resources will be subject to the substantive and
procedural safeguards provided by this policy.

  17. Disclaimer.
    a. CUNY shall not be responsible for any damages, costs or other liabilities of any
nature whatsoever with regard to the use of CUNY Computer Resources. This
includes, but is not limited to, damages caused by unauthorized access to CUNY
Computer Resources, data loss, or other damages resulting from delays, nondeliveries,
or service interruptions, whether or not resulting from circumstances
under the CUNY’s control.
    b. Users receive and use information obtained through CUNY Computer Resources
at their own risk. CUNY makes no warranties (expressed or implied) with respect
to the use of CUNY Computer Resources. CUNY accepts no responsibility for
the content of web pages or graphics that are linked from CUNY web pages, for
any advice or information received by a user through use of CUNY Computer
Resources, or for any costs or charges incurred by a user as a result of seeking or
accepting such advice or information.
    c. CUNY reserves the right to change this policy and other related policies at any
time. CUNY reserves any rights and remedies that it may have under any
applicable law, rule or regulation. Nothing contained in this policy will in any
way act as a waiver of such rights and remedies.

Approved by the Board of Trustees on January 29, 2007, Cal. No. 4.D., with amendments
approved on June 25, 2012, Cal. No. 5.A.