“There’s been a big change at universities in the last two years, where they want to be proactive about this,” said Chris Grossman, senior vice president of enterprise applications at Rand Secure Data. “Going back through someone’s electronic communication after-the-fact, it’s purely reactionary. Modern technology allows universities to be preventative with keyword searches and analysis.”
Rand Secure Data, which provides consulting and software to universities like UVa, urges universities to make sure their policies are clear to students, Grossman said. The searches — part of Rand Secure Data’s eDiscovery software — do not read entire emails, he said, but look for specific keywords that could pertain to threatening behavior.
“This isn’t big brother or a faculty member reading all of a student’s emails,” he said. “Explain that. Put the policy in the student handbook. Let people be informed. They’ll realize that if you do the normal types of communications, their eMails will never fall under the scope of what’s being monitored. It’s only when you fall out of that scope that you have to worry.”
Other universities, such as the University of West Alabama, have implemented policies specifically addressing cyberbullying on social media. At the same time, universities who insist on strictly monitoring student social media have been heavily criticized, even eliciting bipartisan legislation condemning the practice.
The new Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act won’t dictate exactly how harassment policies should be shaped, Murray said, but it will specify that universities address cyberbullying.
“Students going to college shouldn’t think or wonder if there are policies in place to protect them,” Murray said. “They should know.”
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