Computing Services

Electronic Mail Policy

University of Southern Maine
Effective January 1, 2003

USM recognizes the advantages of providing electronic mail (e-mail) services to the university community and that students and staff will, increasingly, require access to such services for learning, teaching and administrative processes. It allows information/business transactions to be delivered in a more timely manner to staff, faculty and students. As resources become increasingly limited, it is the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly means for the University to communicate. The university community is advised to use this Electronic Mail Policy in conjunction with the University of Southern Maine Acceptable Use of Information Resources Policy as well as other University policies and procedures already in place. The Electronic Mail Policy, like the Acceptable Use of Information Resources Policy, "expects users to be familiar and behave consistently with the several general principles which together constitute appropriate, responsible, and ethical behavior in an academic environment, particularly in regard to the use of the University's information resources" and expects users to abide by the federal laws encompassing the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and the USM Confidentiality Statement.

Policy Principles

Electronic mail services are provided by the University in support of the teaching, research and public service mission of the University, and the administrative functions that support this mission. It is important that the users of these services be limited primarily to the University students, faculty, and staff. Users must abide by the following conditions when using these services:

User Identity

University e-mail users must identify themselves. This identification can be either departmental or individual. False identification applies to both user and/or sender and recipient. For example, (user A) cannot log onto the system as (user B) someone else, even if user A has permission from user B. False identification will result in loss of electronic mail service privileges.

Personal Use

University electronic mail services may be used for incidental personal purposes provided that such use does not: directly or indirectly interfere with the operation of other University computing facilities or electronic mail services; burden the University with noticeable incremental cost; or interfere with the e-mail user's employment or other obligations to the University.

Disruption of Service to the Community

University electronic mail services cannot be used for purposes that could reasonably be expected to cause excessive strain on any computing facilities, or unwarranted/unsolicited interference with others' use of e-mail or e-mail systems. Prohibited uses include, but are not limited to: sending or forwarding chain e-mail; and "spamming", that is, sending large quantities of e-mail to individual mailboxes (see Administrative Principles). Deliberate attempts to degrade system performance and capacity is a violation of this policy.

Compliance and Restrictions

Individuals who use University electronic mail services are expected to do so responsibly, that is, to comply with state and federal laws, with this and other policies and procedures of the University, and with normal standards of professional and personal courtesy and conduct (see Guidelines of Ethics and Appropriate Practices). Access to University electronic mail services is a privilege that may be restricted by the University without prior notice and without the consent of the e-mail user when required by and consistent with the law, when there is substantial reason to believe that violations of policy or law have taken place, or when the number of business transactions are at their highest peak within a cycle, for operational needs to take precedence over electronic mail services. Such restriction is subject to the approval of the Director of University Computing Technologies.

Guidelines of Ethics and Appropriate Practices

  1. Electronic mail may not be used for commercial purposes and must be consistent with the relationship that the individual user has to the University.
  2. The sender, whether institutional or individual, must be clearly identifiable in all transmitted messages.
  3. Sending electronic mail should only occur where the recipient can be identified as having a high probability of having interest in the subject matter. Sending unwanted and repeated communication via electronic mail is prohibited and considered harassment.
  4. Electronic mail should not be sent in such a way as to harass users. If a recipient indicates that they do not wish to receive further messages from a group, topic or individual, then no further messages should be sent. Departments are responsible for excluding such recipients from future messages.
  5. Materials that could be considered obscene or offensive may not be sent through the University's electronic mail system.
  6. Any user aware of misuse of electronic mail has a responsibility to report it to the Director of University Computing Technologies.

Disciplinary Action

Violators of this Policy will be subject to the regular disciplinary processes and procedures of the University for students, faculty and staff administrators and may result in sanctions including loss of computing privileges, up to and including dismissal, as provided for under other University policies, procedures, guidelines, collective bargaining agreements or contracts. In some situations, it may be necessary to suspend account privileges to prevent ongoing misuse while the alleged violation is under investigation. Illegal acts involving University computing resources may also subject violators to prosecution by local, state, and/or federal authorities. In the case of immediate loss of computing privileges, appeals may be made to the violator's Vice President of their division or designee.


The University reserves the right to review and consider, from time/request to time/request, the levying of a charge for the distribution of e-mail to large targeted audiences (see Resource and Performance).

Administrative Principles

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The University of Southern Maine abides by the federal laws encompassing the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and has defined certain information contained in the education records of its' students as directory information. A complete listing of what USM has defined as directory information can be found in USM's Policy on the Confidentiality of Student Records. Although our systems are on secure servers, e-mail users are cautioned and advised not to send non-directory information, such as social security numbers, via e-mail. Student e-mail addresses are also considered non-directory information, therefore, when e-mailing the same message to more than one student, the "blind copy" feature must be used to protect the faculty or staff administrator (university) from accidentally (or unintentionally) giving out student e-mail addresses when sending to multiple students. Prior written permission from the student is necessary when transmitting any information regarding the students" educational record or non-directory information.

Request for E-Mail Addresses for Internal Use

Transmission of mail to multiple users must be controlled so that users do not receive large quantities of unwanted and unsolicited mail as this can reduce the effectiveness of the electronic mail service as a viable means of communication. The Office of the Registrar has been designated as the central processing unit for student email requests, and Human Resources has been designated as the central processing unit for employee e-mail requests. Employees who have Student status will fall under FERPA regulations. The coordinator in each office has full discretion as to whether the information presented should be sent electronically, and if necessary, will seek the approval of an appropriate University Vice President.

The following guidelines, in conjunction with the "Appropriate/Inappropriate E-mail Request Uses", will be adhered to when asked to provide e-mail addresses for unsolicited mail to student/employee groups:

  1. Unsolicited mail may only be sent to multiple users where the mailing is related to their university function and the sender has an appropriate work relationship.
  2. Previous semester requests for email addresses will be taken into consideration when sending unsolicited mail to all members of the University or a substantial subset.
  3. Student requests must be received in the Office of the Registrar at least one week prior to the distribution deadline allowing sufficient time for seeking additional approval if necessary. In the event that additional approval is necessary, you are responsible for obtaining and forwarding the approval to the coordinator before your request will be processed.
  4. Content of the information being distributed must be in final form and in the format of a text file (.txt). The coordinators will not edit or change any information within the request of the submitted e-mail request. If changes are necessary to any part of the request, you must resubmit the entire request.
  5. Student requests must meet all of the following criteria:
    • submitted as final form and in the format of a text file (.txt);
    • no longer than one page of written text;
    • contain no attachments;
    • abide by state and federal regulations (FERPA and GLBA);
    • specifically state: To Whom, From Whom, and are provided with a Subject line for the message;
    • send a message that is consistent with the mission of the University (teaching, research and public service, and the administrative functions that support this mission);
    • provide a direct service to the majority of the targeted group and provide a benefit for all included in the targeted group.

Request for E-Mail Addresses for External Use

The Office of the Registrar has been designated as the central processing unit for student e-mail requests, and Human Resources has been designated as the central processing unit for employee e-mail requests. Employees who have Student status will fall under FERPA regulations.

Appropriate/Inappropriate E-mail Request Uses

Examples of appropriate requests include, but are not limited to:

  • Financial Aid may send information to financial aid recipients.
  • The Registrar may send information to all students enrolled.
  • Student Life may send information to those students living in the residence halls.
  • A professor may send information to those students taking her/his class.
  • A school/college/department may send information to their students, i.e. the Biology department to Biology majors, or the School of Business to Accounting majors.
  • A graduate program may send information to a specific undergraduate major if they are providing a direct service to the majority of the targeted group and providing a benefit for all included in the targeted group.

Examples of inappropriate requests include, but are not limited to:

  • The Sociology department may not solicit Biology majors.
  • A graduate program may not solicit all matriculated undergraduate students.
  • The Athletic Department may not solicit all students registered.
  • Faculty or Administrators may not solicit any student or number of students for personal commercial gain, other commercial purpose, or other non-University related business without University approval.

Resource and Performance

Performance and cost of the electronic mail systems for all users can be adversely affected by misuse and abuse of its users. The University reserves the right to set limits on:

  • The total number of electronic mailings sent.
  • The size of individual electronic mail items sent.
  • The total number of electronic mailings sent to large distribution lists within a semester by any one department or individual (see Request for E-mail Addresses for Internal/External Use).
  • The amount of electronic mail retained on central electronic mail servers.

The University's information and computing resources are limited. As demands increase on our computing resources, University-related activities will have first priority. The University encourages users not to solicit large volumes of incoming mail with no, or marginal, relevance to their role within the University. The University reserves the right to request that users unsubscribe from external mailing lists where unacceptable cost or limiting of resources are incurred.

System Administration

Users should be aware that, during the performance of their duties, network and system administrators need from time to time to observe certain transactional addressing information to ensure proper functioning of University e-mail services, and on these and other occasions may see the contents of e-mail messages.

The University attempts to provide secure and reliable e-mail services. Administrators are expected to follow sound professional practices in providing for the security of electronic mail records, data, application programs, and system programs for which they are responsible but have no control over the security of e-mail that has been downloaded to a user's computer.

Systems may be "backed-up" on a routine or occasional basis to protect system reliability and integrity, and to prevent potential loss of data. The back-up process results in the copying of data onto storage media that may be retained for periods of time and in locations unknown to the originator or recipient of electronic mail. Users of electronic mail services should be aware that back-up copies do typically exist.

Use of E-mail Cautions

Although the benefits outweigh the risks, USM would like to caution users of some of the risks. Users should take into consideration the following in regards to communicating electronically:

  • Information could be opened or read by someone other than the intended recipient. Unlike the United States Postal System, there is no federal law to deter opening electronic mail that belongs to someone else.
  • As stated above, e-mail is not a secure form of communication. Privacy and confidentiality are not guaranteed. Users should exercise extreme caution in using e-mail to communicate confidential or sensitive matters.
  • Users could easily overload individuals with information, sometimes unwanted information, regarding issues that may not be of interest to the recipients, thereby, limiting the usefulness of e-mail as a communication tool.
  • Communication(s) via electronic mail could possibly become part of "the educational record" increasing the difficulty in record-keeping.
  • Keep in mind that not everyone in the university has ready access to a computer.
  • Viruses spread via electronic mail and are usually sent by someone that you know. Be sure that your virus detecting software has been installed on your computer, scans incoming e-mails and is running the most recent data file. You can view the "latest version date" by right clicking on the software program icon and going to the "About" drop-down menu.

Prior written permission from the student is necessary when transmitting any information regarding the students' educational record or non-directory information as defined by USM in the Confidentiality Statement (FERPA).