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Student Faces Suspension For Spamming Profs

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the how-free-the-speech dept.

Censorship 516

edmicman sends word of a Fox News report about a Michigan State University student who is facing suspension for bulk emailing a number of professors at the university about a proposed change to the school calendar — an e-mail that the university is labeling spam. The article contains links to a copy of the original email, the allegations against the student, and the university's Email Acceptable Use Policy. The student, Kara Spencer, asked a Philadelphia rights organization, FIRE, to get involved. The article quotes the FIRE defense program director: "The fact that MSU is considering punishment of Spencer simply for exercising her right to contact selected faculty members by e-mail shows a disturbing disregard for students' freedom of expression. ... Threatening a member of the student government with suspension for sending relevant, timely e-mails to faculty members is outrageous." Spencer is awaiting the school's judgement after a hearing, and vows to take to the courts if suspended.

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Mass mailing (5, Funny)

DerekJ212 (867265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050067)

Clearly, the solution is to mass mail all students at the university for support.

Re:Mass mailing (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050245)

I was thinking auto-dialler running around the clock to everyone on campus, heck, why not call the whole town?

Re:Mass mailing (5, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050255)

No that would be ineffective. Clearly the proper course of action is to contact the media so millions of uninvolved strangers can mock the university for such stupefying misapplication of policy.

Interestingly, it seems as a student government representative she was fulfilling her duties by attempting to negotiate change between students and faculty. Her email was well written, clear and concise.

I fail to see how the university can justify any reprisal.

Re:Mass mailing (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050557)

I fail to see how the university can justify any reprisal.

She was already informed that she had violated policy, and she refused to change that.

Civil disobedience is fine, IMO. Have at it, but don't come blubbering when Mr. Consequence arrives to the party.

Re:Mass mailing (4, Funny)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050663)

The only job of student government in any university is to plan parties. Good for her for trying to do more.

Re:Mass mailing (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050437)

The details of the case, with analysis, are here: http://www.thefire.org/index.php/case/773.html [thefire.org] .

MSU's anti-spam policy is clearly unconstitutional (see blog post at http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/10012.html [thefire.org] ).

Adam Kissel
Director, Individual Rights Defense Program
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

FIRST PS TO (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050077)

first post..

and WOW

Re:FIRST PS TO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050651)

Phail

That brings up an interesting question... (4, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050079)

Back in the day on Usenet, spam was more than just 'unsolicited commercial e-mail', it was pretty much any post that was cross-posted and off-topic.

So why do so many of us nowadays seem to equate spam with only 'unsolicited commercial e-mail'? In my mind, spam is any piece of unwanted bulk mail, whether it is 'commercial' in nature or not.

Because in the US (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050297)

It is legally much easier to regulate commercial speech. If you want any sort of anti-spam law, your best bet is there.

Re:That brings up an interesting question... (5, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050351)

The most basic answer is that we're not still back in the day on Usenet. Word meaning is fluid, especially when it comes to slang. Cross-posting is more difficult in e-mail and on forums these days, than it used to be on Usenet with some news clients, and so those elements of the definition have become archaic. People use the term 'spam' in the context of unsolicited mail because that's the only context they have for it.

That's a pretty wide brush. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050375)

>So why do so many of us nowadays seem to equate spam with >only 'unsolicited commercial e-mail'? In my mind, spam is any >piece of unwanted bulk mail, whether it is 'commercial' in nature or not. If I, a student at a university, desire to send an email to all faculty and staff at that university concerning university policy, this should not be considered spam, whether the recipients wanted to receive it or not.

Re:That's a pretty wide brush. (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050675)

Unless there are policies that say that this isn't allowed. The University has policies for distributing information, and this person ignored those policies. Just because MSU offered email service doesn't mean the individual had a right to use it in any way they wanted to. There are plenty of reasons for such a policy, such as limiting the purpose for email so that professors or students can use it in a defined way. It's the right of the university to impose those restrictions.

Re:That brings up an interesting question... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050547)

Back in the day on Usenet, spam was more than just 'unsolicited commercial e-mail', it was pretty much any post that was cross-posted and off-topic.

That's not spam [wikipedia.org] , that's a troll [wikipedia.org] .

So why do so many of us nowadays seem to equate spam with only 'unsolicited commercial e-mail'?

Because that's what spam is - see the wiki link. Of course, you don't have to email to spam, [wikipedia.org] posting a gratituous, offtopic link to your blog is "board spam". But the subject here is email spam.

Re:That brings up an interesting question... (2, Insightful)

MacDork (560499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050625)

So why do so many of us nowadays seem to equate spam with only 'unsolicited commercial e-mail'? In my mind, spam is any piece of unwanted bulk mail, whether it is 'commercial' in nature or not.

"I didn't want to read that. You just spammed me." Wow... we've certainly come a long way from "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

She must have misspelled too many words. (1)

Red4man (1347635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050083)

A common trait of spam messages is the horrible spelling and grammar contained therein. The typical spam message is rife with so many errors that it makes the average AC look like a literary titan.

The irony of it is if it got flagged as spam due to these errors, then perhaps that too is the fault of the University.

Re:She must have misspelled too many words. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050585)

It was probably flagged as Spam because at least two professors think the "this is Spam" button is the delete button.

I read her entire email (5, Interesting)

deft (253558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050085)

it's linked in the news article. It was well written, not off topic, and expressed a reasonable concern about the time period students have to get to know the school apparently. It was not "spam" at all.

It sounds like the professors are more butthurt she got their email addresses than interested in responding to the concern she expressed.

They simply should have redirected her appeal to the right people if it was not appropriate to be sent via that email list. Instead they are being punative.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Interesting)

jmyers (208878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050219)

If you also read the complaint, it is alleged that she was instructed the correct way to send the message and refused to do so. The compliant makes it sound like she was in a pissing contest with the network administrator. Not a good person to piss off if you want to send email.

"the student was informed of the proper procedures to follow and flatly refused to obtain proper permissions stating that she would continue to send emails out and demanded that I file charges against her."

sounds like she wanted some publicity to go with her spam.

Re:I read her entire email (1)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050401)

"the student was informed of the proper procedures to follow and flatly refused to obtain proper permissions stating that she would continue to send emails out and demanded that I file charges against her."

Speaking as someone who does in his day job occasionally sue people - anyone specifically asking for it is... well, asking for it.

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050499)

So the admin was a PHB or your regular BOFH. Kiss off. If Mr. 'Stick up his ass' wants you to copy, paste, copy, paste, send, repeat x 1000 instead of CC, do you really think you are obligated to do it? SPAM is unsolicited COMMERCIAL email. Where did she stand to gain monetarily? She's just trying to get her work done in spite of their asinine email policy.

And that was the correct response, too. (4, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050573)

If a "network administrator" told me I could not email all the faculty and staff at a university I was paying to attend concerning a change in university policy that affects everyone, I'd tell them to go piss up a rope, too.

Re:And that was the correct response, too. (2, Insightful)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050719)

She wasn't e-mailing them about "a change in university policy that affects everyone". She was e-mailing them about why said change was a Bad Idea(TM), and apparently they didn't care to read her editorial column.

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050609)

ahh, yeah. network admin is a prissy little whiner, don't make him sad!

Re:I read her entire email (4, Interesting)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050669)

If you also read the complaint, it is alleged that she was instructed the correct way to send the message and refused to do so. The compliant makes it sound like she was in a pissing contest with the network administrator. Not a good person to piss off if you want to send email.

Yes, many school administrators have the opinion that their department policy is teh law, regardless of what the student may have signed or what the university guidelines actually state.

For example, I knew someone at my university who registered a domain name to his dorm room computer. He got an email from the campus security admin telling him that was against university policy, and to take it down. The only thing the machine was serving was an image of the domain name, but he immediately did as requested. Then the student checked the universities guidelines on network usage, but was unable to find any policy on registering a domain to a campus ip address. The student asked the security admin to point out where this policy was written down. The security admin responded by trying to get the student suspended from the school.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Insightful)

Puls4r (724907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050725)

Perhaps that was the case. I've been involved in a few of these "power" struggles. Being part of a large organization myself, I'll venture a guess that the policy that she was told to follow was so lengthy and political that it would have resulted in: A. No one EVER getting the email B. The email not getting out in time C. The email getting "editted" or "changed" so it didn't have it's desired effect. If it's anything like what I tend to be involved with, the so-called "policy" in place is specifically there to prevent you from contact anyone of importance - not to facilitate it. It's a matter of the so-called "powerful" not wanting to deal with the lesser folk. Many profs I've dealth with in college were like that: they would become very upset if questioned.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Insightful)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050241)

I don't think any spam filter on earth would identify her email as spam.

It seems almost obvious that she's being prosecuted simply because she made the provost look stupid.
If any student can use mailing lists like this to challenge the provost so effectively... imagine the mayhem!! /sarcasm

Re:I read her entire email (3, Interesting)

danzona (779560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050265)

it's linked in the news article. It was well written, not off topic, and expressed a reasonable concern about the time period students have to get to know the school apparently. It was not "spam" at all.

Spam is unsolicited bulk email, regardless of whether or not it is well written, relevant, or reasonable.

It sounds like the professors are more butthurt she got their email addresses

That is the whole point, she got their email addresses and sent them spam.

They simply should have redirected her appeal to the right people if it was not appropriate to be sent via that email list. Instead they are being punative.

I agree with you here, but according to TFA, when they did this she refused and vowed to repeat her actions. TFA did not mention why she refused, so it is possible that the system in place would not be timely enough or would dilute her message, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt. I think that her actions do not merit suspension. Just take away her email privileges.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Insightful)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050433)

Spam is unsolicited bulk email, regardless of whether or not it is well written, relevant, or reasonable.

Then the student can counter-sue if the University ever her sent her spam over an upcoming basketball game, art exhibit, Last Lecture speech, etc.

Re:I read her entire email (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050337)

How could the sysadmin not have seen this:
http://lct.msu.edu/guidelines-policies/bulkemail.html

"
# Permitted uses for broad cross-University mailing. Bulk e-mailing may be used only by University offices to send communications necessary to the normal course of business and which typically require some official action be taken individually by recipients. Such permitted uses include:

        * Dissemination of urgent information of health and safety concern for students and University employees.
        * Communication of information regarding changes of University policies or procedures, or actions that affect employment or compensation status, or status as a student.
        * Regular communications (for example, to University employees) that are required by law, regulation or University policy for which bulk e-mail may largely replace paper transmittal.

"

So, according to their own policy, mass emailing of "...information regarding changes of University policies or procedures, or actions that affect employment or compensation status, or status as a student..." falls within acceptable use. That is assuming that this change to the university schedule is a "change in policy" or "affects employment". I don't see how that wouldn't be the case.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Insightful)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050561)

I thought that too, at first, but then I noticed in TFA that her e-mail was not informative but rather dissension...

On Sept. 15, Kara Spencer, a senior and the associated students director at MSU, sent a letter to 391 university professors speaking out against a proposal from the Provost to shorten the fall semester by two days and to shorten Fall Welcome, reducing the amount of time new students would have to adjust to college living.

Probably that falls under "personal purposes" or "political statements or purposes", both of which purposes are explicitly prohibited in the document from which you quoted.

Re:I read her entire email (1)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050667)

The way I read it, "...may be used only by Univeristy offices..." Seeing that she's a student, not an employee of the university, she has no rights to communicate "...information regarding changes of University policies or procedures, or actions that affect employment or compensation status, or status as a student"

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050687)

I don't see how that wouldn't be the case.

Is she a "University office"?

Then that isn't the case.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Insightful)

Xcott Craver (615642) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050343)

It sounds like the professors are more butthurt she got their email addresses than interested in responding to the concern she expressed.

As a professor, I doubt it: most of us couldn't care less if we get one more unsolicited email from a student.

More likely she is the victim of some jobsworth in an administrative office who was on the mailing list and has nothing more important to do.

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050353)

The student was contacted and told she could send mass mails to faculty by following some sort of university process, she refused to follow that process. She decided to continue sending unsolicited mass messages instead. Guess what kids - at that point you are a spammer.

Re:I read her entire email (0, Redundant)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050361)

Content doesn't matter. Mass unsolicited mail is spam. It doesn't magically become not spam just because you think it's well written.

Re:I read her entire email (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050363)

Just the same, the MSU Bulk email policy:

Permitted uses for broad cross-University mailing: Bulk e-mailing may be used only by University offices[.]

is pretty clear on whether or not this was ok.

Re:I read her entire email (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050577)

That wasn't a "broad cross-University mailing" (i.e. addressed to "all users"). It was a targeted mailing, albeit a targeted mailing with nearly 400 recipients...

Re:I read her entire email (1)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050387)

It sounds like the professors are more butthurt she got their email addresses than interested in responding to the concern she expressed.

As a student if you have an .edu mail address to most schools you have access to that school's online directory that lists all current undergraduate, graduate, administrator, and professor email addresses.

In fact, Michigan State University lists all professors emails address for PUBLIC ACCESS.

https://fsra.msu.edu/Search.Asp [msu.edu]

Just search for any professor's name from the article and you'll get his or her email address.

Re:I read her entire email (4, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050423)

It was well written, not off topic, and expressed a reasonable concern

Well then it probably should never be posted to slashdot.

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050485)

That is ridiculous, at my university, you can easily find email addresses on the college's website, or search a person specifically. I just checked and their Find People is right on the front page at the top. MSU is simply handling this the complete wrong way.
Im sure it isn't hard to find anyone's email

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050487)

That email: link [thefire.org] , link [thefire.org]

it's linked in the news article. It was well written, not off topic, and expressed a reasonable concern about the time period students have to get to know the school apparently.

Fantastic. Send it to the student government opt-in mailing list.

Why should there be a loophole in spam laws for political speech? It is my opinion that politicians should be covered by the same bans on robocalling, telemarketing, fax spamming and email spamming that other businesses and individuals are.

Re:I read her entire email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050493)

"t sounds like the professors are more butthurt she got their email addresses than interested in responding to the concern she expressed."

Given the staggering volume of email the average prof gets, what's amazing is that one of them actually: 1. read (wait, that's way too far--skimmed) it, 2. didn't shrug it off as unimportant, 3. but actually take time out of what is normally a 60+ hour week (that's when they're not teaching!) to do something about it that was 4. rather than fire off a two-line email to the author contact the network admin.

I have mixed feelings (1)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050617)

It sounds like the professors are more butthurt she got their email addresses than interested in responding to the concern she expressed.

I read it and I have mixed feelings because of the possible precedent as much as anything. If she'd sent it to 10,000 professors instead of 391, would it be any different? What if she started sending emails about every other matter that concerned her? Especially if the university and people in it have a culture of not bulk-emailing staff, I might be quite annoyed by this if I was a professor who received it.

I think what it may come down to is whether the university is acting consistently with how they've acted in the past, or if they're just coming down on her because she's sending emails about something that's contradictory to what they want.

FRIST PSOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050087)

this is sorta spam. so am i on-topic?

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050093)

FIRST.

Personally (2, Funny)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050101)

I like to sign my instructors up for SPAM, but whatever works.

Re:Personally (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050227)

That's funny. I once tracked (on purpose) poop onto my english professors carpet for giving me a 64 (the lowest possible D before an F) because he didn't agree with my position on a paper (which was a moral issue). He gave me a D because he knew i put hard work into the document but couldn't agree with my position.

Re:Personally (0, Offtopic)

Lostlander (1219708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050355)

That's what I hate about so many instructors they seem to think they have a right to grade you on your viewpoint when all they should grade you on is your ability to clearly state your point and support your conclusions (and grammar and spelling of course). These professors wonder why people are starting to view universities as indoctrination stations when you're not even allowed to dissent in opinion in an english class.

Re:Personally (4, Funny)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050395)

That's funny. I once tracked poop (on purpose) onto my English professor(')s carpet for giving me a 64 (the lowest possible D before an F) because he didn't agree with my position on a paper (which was on a moral issue). He gave me a D because he knew I had put hard work into the document(,) but couldn't agree with my position.

Frankly, I'd give you a D for that paragraph alone.

Re:Personally (3, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050603)

The comma shouldn't be there.

This is good news... (4, Funny)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050115)

Because it means that we'll finally have an exact legal threshold in terms of number of recipients for an email to be considered spam, regardless of the contents or intent of the email. Zero tolerance policies are a really good idea, because they allow us to deal with violations--now matter how minor--in a uniform manner, and don't permit bureaucrats to allow things like reasonableness or circumstances to muddy the issue.

Re:This is good news... (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050211)

Well played, sir, it wasn't until the final section that you set off my sarcasm meter.

Re:This is good news... well not really (1)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050325)

Did you read this girl's email?? It was not spam at all (as I understand spam, part of the problem is everyone has a different definition, you say its the amount of recipients, other posters just call it 'unsolicited commercial mail') it was a legitimate email sent to instructors and asking real questions on the behalf of students. Just because it is sent to multiple people automatically categorizes it as spam?? If this held true, I would not be able to receive emails for mailing lists I have subscribed to. As I see it, users and admins are responsible for managing their own mail servers and inboxes, not bureaucracies.

Keep your laws and rules off my interwebz!!! The growing pains that are apparent on the internet will eventually be solved with technical solutions without the need of those without experience managing networks creating new rules and regulations.

Re:This is good news... well not really (1)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050435)

Ok, scratch that, I missed the sarcasm in the GP.

Re:This is good news... well not really (1)

chekk4 (1367067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050489)

Whoosh ...

Please enable your sarcasm detector.

Re:This is good news... well not really (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050621)

School policy explicitly prohibited using mass mailers for personal or political reasons.

Re:This is good news... well not really (1)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050727)

Kind of a grey area here. Although this could be considered "political", its is also her duty per her position with student council. Seems like a case that would set precedent for this university.

Just like the Government... (1)

Lovedumplingx (245300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050119)

...anything they don't like they describe as a misconduct and levy the "appropriate" discipline without any chance of discussion.

The ONLY one? (1)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050123)

"I am the only student to ever be charged or brought to the judiciary and charged with violating the university's Network Acceptable Use Policy, and that raises questions for me. I can't imagine that this is the test case for the university given the vast amount of file sharing and hacking that goes on around campus," Spencer said.

Is she really the _only_ one to be charged? Does she have documented proof of this? I guarantee someone has gotten in trouble in the past or else they have upstanding students or piss poor admins.

It's an outrage! (1, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050129)

I mean, without such emails how are the professors to know that their penises are too small?

Re:It's an outrage! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050507)

High Five for that one !!

Is it just me (3, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050131)

or does anyone else think that universities are treating students more and more like cattle these days? It's as if the concept of helping students goes flying out the window after the university takes their money.

Re:Is it just me (1)

Lostlander (1219708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050409)

Yup.

Re:Is it just me (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050441)

These days? It may be more common now, but thirty years ago, I heard two professors remark how "[this] University would be a great place to work, if we didn't have to deal with students", and they were not trying to be funny. They were having some kind of carp-and-moan session about their research projects being impacted by having to teach classes. I realize these two clowns don't represent all professors at all universities, and they didn't represent a majority of the professors I had, but the "Money, please. Screw you very much!" attitude has been around for a long time.

batten down the teapot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050153)

I read the linked pdfs and arguments. There doesn't seem to be anything that makes the case something other than spam.

"Selected faculty members"? (4, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050161)

She sent what amounted to a form letter to 391 professors. I certainly don't consider this spam. Given the lazy, unthoughtful way she went about this, I also don't consider this anything more than a waste of everbody's time. Sending what amounts to a bulk form letter via email isn't going to influence anyone.

Beyond that, I think it's more problematic that she apparently refuses to comply with university policies once notified about them. Her position basically is "I intend to continue sending out poorly thought out, ineffectual bulk messages to all faculty whenever I see fit." In that context, maybe it does become spam...

Re:"Selected faculty members"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050251)

This is amusing, considering that the US public's official complaints policy is to write a physical letter to a congressman.

The total volume of complaints submitted daily trumps this paltry case.

The content of the message is also non inflammatory, not defamatory, and fully relevant.

If not this avenue, what alternative method of reaching all 391 professors in the small deadline provided do you suggest? Haggling them in person is harassment.

Re:"Selected faculty members"? (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050445)

You give one suggestion with your first line. Physical mail, delivered to their offices or faculty mailboxes.

Or, you know, not telling a mail administrator off when he shows you the proper mailing list to dump on.

Re:"Selected faculty members"? (2, Interesting)

db32 (862117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050463)

What? The violation says she was "representing a group falsly". It seems to me that what she did is perfectly inline with her job. The student government's job IS to raise these issues. As far as I can tell ONE professor bitched about it. Classifying what she did as a violation of policy is quite a bit of a stretch after reading the policies cited compared to what she did. So I think she is acting perfectly correctly when the IT department says "We are going to call this a violation of policy because a professor bitched at us, stop it" and she tells them go to hell.

The part that I don't understand is why she would fight it. I never understood that in most of these types of cases. Why would you fight your university like this? Tell them fuck off I am going elsewhere and I am going to make this as public and noisy as possible so other students know what to expect. Why would you fight to stay at a school that sucks when you can easily go to a school that doesn't suck.

Re:"Selected faculty members"? (1)

eyecorporations (1401035) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050713)

Probably because she is a Senior and has one semester left, so she wouldn't have time to get into any other schools and it would be far more of a hassle for her.

Student electees are non-office and have no rights (1)

TeknoDragon (17295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050523)

Unfortunately what we're seeing here is how student government office holders are typically official powerless figureheads meant to keep a lid on direct student action and unrest.

The MSU Bulk E-Mail policy allows for emailing "information regarding changes of University policies or procedures" but the privilege of exercising these speech rights is reserved to "only by University offices". Student governments are typically not an official university office and have no rights under any of the policies which exempt the first year teaching assistant.

Even worse, students are officially customers of the university yet constrained by draconian state laws which constrain their behavior as if they were minors in the care of the state and every university staff or faculty member were their guardians.

I encourage students everywhere to encourage their universities to adopt a "grown-up" student government policy where student office holders are official employees of the state and actually represent the interests of their constituents / the university's customers. Vote with your (or your parent's) dollars: attend schools which respect their customer's rights!

It was a fine letter. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050677)

>Given the lazy, unthoughtful way she went about this, I also don't consider this anything >more than a waste of everbody's time. Sending what amounts to a bulk form letter via email isn't going to influence anyone. I read the email from TFA. It was thoughtfully and carefully worded, polite, and articulate. It was a professional email concerning a policy change that would affect all faculty and students. It was quite appropriate. It MAY BE a waste of time, but only because of the apathy of the people she informed about the policy change, not because she was wrong in her message or even how she went about it.

Re:"Selected faculty members"? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050715)

Her position basically is "I intend to continue sending out poorly thought out, ineffectual bulk messages to all faculty whenever I see fit." In that context, maybe it does become spam...

That's one interpretation. But I wonder where you got it from? All we have is the other side's statement that:

"the student was informed of the proper procedures to follow and flatly refused to obtain proper permissions stating that she would continue to send emails out and demanded that I file charges against her."

No explanation as to why she needs "proper permission" to send a message to the faculty at her school. No explanation as to exactly what the "proper permission" entails nor how long it takes to acquire it, if it can even be acquired by a student.

From the facts presented, I think it is at least as likely that her is position basically is "Short of tracking down each faculty member individually and in person, University policies leave me no other choice but to send a single copy of my well reasoned message via email to each faculty member. Furthermore I believe this to be a moral and just method of communication because it is on topic to the relationship between my student government post and the school's faculty and the university administration has already lead by example by sending multiple email messages on the same topic to all students and faculty."

Nothing wrong with her message (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050179)

Her message was fine. Composed well. Before RTFA I thought it was a whiney cry "OMG th3y r taking away our partayzzz timez" but in reality her letter was fine
Some prof was concerned how a student got her WORK e-mail address??? Geez at the universities I went to (2 of them) a professors email was their first initial, last name and the school address after the @ symbol. You could also go to each departments website and get a picture, email, phone and office address for the professor.
This is silly, and the school needs to grow up. This does not fall under the realm of spam. The message was written and targetted to professors on an issue that affects professors and students. It would be like me complaining that my bank sent me a letter, via e-mail, informing me that my statement date was changing. The info is relevant to me - it wouldn't be spam. The info is relevant to the professors - it is not spam.

Re:Nothing wrong with her message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050399)

All professor email addresses at a state school are public record.

Re:Nothing wrong with her message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050637)

The info is relevant to the professors - it is not spam.

So you're saying that if I have a small penis then all the email I get isn't actually SPAM?! Damn it!!

Re:Nothing wrong with her message (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050683)

Pretty sure the company that sent you those e-mails didn't know your size or those belonging to the 232352351 they sent emails to. There is also no relationship between you and those companies. There is a relationship between students and teachers in the same university. There is a world of difference and to compare this girl to random "traditional" spammers is silly.

ah, academic politics (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050187)

She's going to be fine. The administrator who let that e-mail go through the list-serv is losing his job though.

Always comes down to definitions (3, Insightful)

zindorsky (710179) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050195)

The crux of the issue is of course what you mean by spam. The best definition I've seen is: bulk, unsolicated commercial communications. (Due I think to Brad Templeton.) In this particular case the commercial aspect is missing, so this is not spam. This tendency to label of anything you don't like as either "spam" or "terrorism" is getting pretty tiresome.

Re:Always comes down to definitions (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050299)

SPAM doesn't require commercialism. If you don't believe me give me your e-mail address. I will post it on slashdot and ask everyone on slashdot e-mail you with "I love you", 50 times each. They are not using it for commercial issues - so by your reasoning (and Templetons def) it is not spam.
This does not fall under spam, imho, because the student sent an e-mail to professors on their school work e-mail (which allows students to send to professors) for the purpose of asking a professor for their input on a situation that concerns them in two ways 1) their WORK/personal schedules and 2) their students EDUCATION

At least she didn't TELL EVERYONE HI (4, Interesting)

Xcott Craver (615642) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050203)

When I was in college, a little-known feature of the mainframe system allowed anyone with an MVS account (every CS major and anyone who took a CS class) to send a bulk instant message to everyone on campus.

Astonishingly, this had the effect of shutting down all administrative offices, from payroll to the registrar to the financial aid office. This was because all the line printers had accounts too, and would choke on an improperly formatted input. Anyone with an account could do this. Of course it would be tied to your name, so in theory you'd want to use someone else's account.

About every couple years a student would learn about the feature and innocently TELL EVERYONE HI without realizing that they were about to enter a dimension consisting entirely of pain. I do not think that even this transgression would result in a suspension---the chair might have you murdered, but no suspension.

Re:At least she didn't TELL EVERYONE HI (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050679)

Actually I think it'd be a whole lot funnier to figure out what the "properly formatted input" was and make all the printers on the whole campus print a "hello world" sheet.

There's spam, then there's SPAM (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050239)

So this went to what, a few hundred people, who at least were vaguely connected to the issue, and they simply deleted it? Where's the impact here, vs. 10,000,000 p3n15 emails with links to malware sites?

Not SPAM, but what's this about free speech? (2, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050247)

I don't understand the free speech thing. No, it's not SPAM. Whether or not she actually abused the policy is up for someone else to decide, not me. But what is all this talk about free speech? Since when does freedom of speech mean you can break a the rules you agreed (I assume you have to agree to abide by them in order to be accepted into the school) to follow?

If she actually broke the policy, then the agreed-to consequences for it should happen. If she didn't, the school is being stupid, and the SCHOOL should face consequences. But this doesn't have to do with "freedom of speech."

Re:Not SPAM, but what's this about free speech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050457)

I don't understand the free speech thing. No, it's not SPAM. Whether or not she actually abused the policy is up for someone else to decide, not me. But what is all this talk about free speech? Since when does freedom of speech mean you can break a the rules you agreed (I assume you have to agree to abide by them in order to be accepted into the school) to follow?

You see, this is a State school, and in the USA there is a little thing called the Constitution and another little thing called the Bill of Rights, and as a government agency, a State school can't have a policy contrary to those little things.

A private school is a different kettle of fish.

Re:Not SPAM, but what's this about free speech? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050541)

Thank you, I understand that it is a state school, and I understand there is a Constitution. And I understand that, in fact, the first 10 amendments to that Constitution are generally referred to as the "Bill of Rights."

I also understand that a government agency can't have policies contrary to them.

But public schools can have policies that aren't contrary to them. Freedom of speech does not mean you are allowed to use any technology you want to say anything you want. Those policies appear to have been left up to the schools or other organizations to decide. For example, the post office is a government agency, right? But I am not legally allowed to put non-stamped letters into a mailbox. It's illegal to use mailboxes without going through the policies and procedures of the US Postal Service. No!!!! My rights are being violated!!!

No, your rights aren't being violated... it's just that the 'Bill of Rights' is not synonymous with "Anarchy on Public Property."

If she had been talking to students about it and got in trouble for that, that would be different. She's not technically in trouble for what she said, she is technically in trouble for breaking a policy. So prove she didn't break the policy. If she's still in trouble, then yell about freedom of speech.

Think of it this way. I accuse you of stealing. You complain that your freedom of speech is being taken away. That makes no sense, you're not answering my accusation. Now, if you didn't steal, you prove you didn't steal, and THEN you complain about it, then you are accusing me, and now *I* have to answer for it. Right? From the article, it doesn't appear that's what this "FIRE" group is doing.

First we need a good definition of spam. (5, Interesting)

imyy4u3 (1290108) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050331)

Is spam any unsolicited email sent out to 20 or more recipients? If so, this is spam.

Is spam any unsolicited commercial email sent out to 20 or more recipients? If so, this is not spam.

Is spam any unsolicited advertorial email sent out to more than 1 person? If so, this is not spam.

Is spam any unsolicited email sent to more than 1 person? If so, this is spam.

The problem here is we need a legal definition of spam to define what it is. Then once the public knows what spam is, we can prosecute those who send it illegally, and stop wasting our damn time arguing what it is. Personally, I like the definition of any unsolicited email sent to more than 20 people...regardless of the content.

Re:First we need a good definition of spam. (3, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050699)

I like your idea, and I have forwarded it to 20 of my closest friends with instructions that they do the same.

Not really a free speech issue, but... (2, Interesting)

dexmachina (1341273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050385)

I don't really think it's fair to call this a free speech issue. There are laws against spam in many countries, and we don't call that an attack on free speech. So the only real question here is whether or not what she did was actually considered spamming. From MSU's policy on bulk emailing (linked to in article): "Bulk e-mailing may be used only by University offices to send communications necessary to the normal course of business and which typically require some official action be taken individually by recipients." Since part of the proposal Spencer was speaking against involved shortening the fall semester by two days, I guess that sort of qualifies. However, the policy also says: "Bulk e-mailing may not be used for personal purposes, advertising or solicitations, or political statements or purposes." I think had she simply sent out an email informing faculty of the changes, it would be fine. But the purpose of the email was to solicit support. It's all a little fuzzy, but I think that with a little thought, there isn't much question that her email did violate MSU's terms of use. Profs, especially ones with large classes, have to deal with tonnes of email. I'd probably be annoyed to if someone had harvested my address off a database or website intended to be use for academic purposes, and started sending me mass emails about general student issues.

I've seen worse (1)

NinthAgendaDotCom (1401899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050393)

I was a part-time student worker at my university, doing IT work. One time I saw an email come through that had thousands of students and faculty visible in the To/CC fields. I thought, oh man, whomever sent that is going to be red-faced soon.

Re:I've seen worse (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050539)

At a company I worked for there were many unwritten rules; not unreasonable but not necessarily published. One of them concerned the ALL email group, and that was "don't use it". Common sense would tell you this, but apparently we recruited from colleges where common sense was not widely taught. So June, we'd start getting email for "Looking for a cheap Apartment", and "Couch for Sale". Laughter ensued as we pictured this poor, innocent engineer getting an email from a Senior VP explaining to them the error of their ways.

University employee spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050471)

Mass mailing 391 professors? How about mass mailing 7000 students with everyone CC'ed. The whole email system was down quickly as every new 'reply-to-all' response spawned a new 7Mb mail to 7000 recipients.

And all this for the secretary to get extra votes for a 'prettiest baby' contest...

Bleah (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050477)

I was on her side until I saw the email read like political form letter. Yeesh! People really write like that? I thought those were all computer generated or composed by captive serial killers deep in secret prison sub-basements.

The university really has no choice, in my opinion, but to hang her.

We've been foxed! (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050579)

Since when has fox news been worthy of slashdotting?

Right to Email (0, Flamebait)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050629)

There is no right to email.
She signed the acceptable use policy, and then did things that she was specifically told not to do.

She fails. She should be punished according to the guidelines set forth in the policy. Likely, this includes suspension/removal of her email accounts and privileges and a suspension. It could also include complete removal of access to the campus network if they wanted to be dicks.

Her email is about the fall welcome week. This is the week/few days you get between when the campus opens up (and freshman enter the dorms) and when classes start. The university (like many others) has proposed changes to shorten the week.

As a member of the student government, this girl most likely lives on campus (in the dorms), or is shilling for people that do. The real issue here is that the kiddies want more time to go out and party before classes start. They don't want to get to know the campus, they don't want to get to know the community. They want booze and drugs and sex, especially the freshman, many of whom will be living away from their parents for the first time.

College. The same drama from the same annoying kids. Grow up.

More on the MSU 'spammer' (3, Interesting)

BStewart (1427773) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050631)

We here at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) appreciate the widespread interest in Kara Spencer's case. I would encourage everyone to check out another article on this case over at The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-lukianoff/its-raining-spam-at-michi_b_149378.html [huffingtonpost.com] There is also a podcast interview with Kara Spencer on our website that might be of interest to some of you who wanted more details of the case: http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/10008.html [thefire.org]

I read the Acceptible Use Policy et al... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26050649)

..and nowhere did I see the process by which a user could submit mail to be sent to faculty/staff, NOR did I read anywhere that a student could not do as the student did. Perhaps it's in the student handbook, but in an age where HR is trying to make everything digital, you'd think those policies would be listed. Even a cursory glance through MSU's IT page didn't shed any light on the policy.

MSU Overreaction (1)

TechWolfy (1088703) | more than 5 years ago | (#26050701)

ATS (Academic Technology Services) at MSU may have policies, such as approving bulk emails, and as such, once the student representative became aware of procedures necessary to approve a large emailing, she should not continue to claim ignorance, but ask what she needs to do at this point. ATS needs to better define spam on their part. The email is well constructed and is legitimately asking for an opinion to whether or not the academic calendar should be changed. This is an issue that affects students, staff and the surrounding community. MSU has overreacted to this incident, and as I understand it the general reaction from staff was positive and an inquiry for more information on the issue.
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