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Conditions of account


Computer and network access at Mount Holyoke College is provided in accordance with our Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). This document describes types of accounts and how long they remain active. It also describes some of the general aspects of disk usage.

Account classification, duration, and expiration

Faculty/staff   Accounts are valid for the term of employment. (These may include 5-College employees.) Accounts are expired when employment ends.

In special circumstances, a grace period may be granted after employment ends. This is normally requested by the individual's supervisor or department chair before the term of employment ends..

Retirees and Emeriti   Retirees and Emeriti normally may retain their computer accounts. Some services, such as library database access, may not be available.
Student   Student accounts are valid while enrolled at MHC. Account privileges are normally continued for students on leave or for those enrolled at other institutions who are expected to return.
Five College students   Accounts are provided to Five College students while they are enrolled in MHC courses. The account expires when the term ends or when the course is dropped.
Graduates   Graduates may retain their computer account for the purpose of electronic communications.

Yearly reapplication in is required. An account for which there is no current reapplication may be considered expired.

Accounts may not be retained for accounts that have had policy violations or other unacceptable use..

Former students who have not graduated are not eligible for a continuing account.

An account that is persistently over INBOX quota will be inactivated. When the individual is ready to prune the INBOX, she may have the account reactivated by contacting the MHC email address, account-manager.

For details, please see the document, "Computer Account Access after Graduation".

Other affiliations   Limited term accounts are provided for others who have temporary affiliations with the College, such as contract workers, visiting faculty, consultants.

Because we strictly prohibit the sharing of accounts with others such as family members, we provide accounts for employee spouses, partners, and dependents.

Accounts expire when the affiliation expires.

Information stored on College computers

All information on accounts must be saved by the account owner prior to the end of the term of the account. The College is not responsible for information left in the system after the term of the account has expired.

Information in an expired account that is pertinent to the business of the College may be moved to an active account.

Privacy of information

Although there is a general expectation of privacy of personal information, in the event of subpoena or other legal action or investigation, information may be accessed by College officials.

Information related to the business of the College remains that of the College.

File contents, like electronic mail, are generally private and in most circumstances, there can be an expectation of privacy. However, there are conditions in which privacy cannot be assured. Some of these circumstances are:

  • Your HOME directory contains some "dot" files which have to do with login processing to which the system managers must have access. These files should generally not be altered or removed. (Examples of such files are: .ssh, .profile, .cshrc, .login, and .logout)
  • In extraordinary circumstances, for purposes of system or College security, or system resource allocation and performance, specific contents may be viewed by system managers. For example, files that are being run as programs and/or are consuming large amounts of system resources may have to be examined in order to determine whether the program should be unconditionally terminated, whether it is operating normally and can be left running, or whether there is a security breach in the system.
  • In the course of an investigation of health/safety issues, misconduct, or illegal activity, a designated system manager may be required to examine contents of specific files deemed related to the investigation.
  • Files and other information may be released in response to a subpoena or other legal investigation.
  • If an account has been used for College business and the account has been closed or expired, contents of specific files may be examined by a designated system manager with the concurrence of the Director of Human Resources to determine if they need to be retained or moved.
  • If an account is used in connection with the administration of the College, it may be necessary to provide the supervisor with specific file(s) related to such administration if the account owner is not available. This is done with the concurrence of the Director of Human Resources.
  • Files may be read if the file permissions have been set to grant others permission to read or write the files.
  • World Wide Web files: all files on the World Wide Web server(s) are considered public. Even if the individual does not specifically permit such files for public viewing, they may be made available for public viewing.
  • File names and file sizes are not considered private. These may be seen by system managers in the course of operating the system.

Disk usage and disk quotas

Disk space is a limited resource. Disk quotas are implemented in order to prevent individuals from using more than a fair share of storage. Disk quotas may be adjusted for College business and academic purposes.

Your computer account may have access to a number of different disk areas, similar to separate disks on your personal computer. Each area has its own quota of disk storage for each computer account.

You should view your disk usage from time to time by going to the disk quota area of Webshell at:

If you exceed your quota on a particular disk area, or filesystem, you should receive an email warning. You can exceed your quota up to a hard quota limit for a 7-day grace period. Normally the hard quota limit is significantly higher than the quota so work is usually not affected during the grace period. Quota limits on some filesystems may be increased for College academic or business purposes. inc

Personal or local storage vs. server storage

The advantage of server storage is that it is routinely backed up to prevent loss from disk failures. Most of us are not diligent about backing up our own computers, Therefore, information on server storage is less likely to be lost than information on the hard drive of your own computer. Loss is also a factor. A USB flash drive may also hold a lot of information, but it is quite easy to misplace or lose.

However, server disk storage is very much more expensive than personal storage. For less than a cost of a dinner in most restaurants, you can purchase more storage on a USB flash drive than we can afford to provide for each person on the server systems.

So where should you store your information? Should you store it on the server (network space) or on your local devices (desktop computer, USB/flash drives, CDs or DVDs)?

Unfortunately there is rarely a definitive answer. It depends on various factors.

  • Type of use:
    Is the information for College business (academic/administrative), personal academic work/research, or other personal use? You should choose server storage for material that is related to College academic or business work. Some server space is provided for personal information, such as personal email.
  • Size of the material:
    Some academic material, such as movies, large numbers of pictures, or very large data sets may be too large for server storage and should use personal or local storage.
  • Frequency of use:
    Some large sets of material, such as multimedia or research files referred to above, may be frequently used for a particular class for a limited time. While the primary storage may be on personal or local devices, server storage during the period of frequent access may make sense.
  • Development material and distribution material:
    There are some projects (especially those involving multimedia) which require a great deal of disk space during development, but which require much less space for the final form of the project. Only the final project needs to use server storage for distribution.
  • Confidentiality:
    Storage of any confidential College information on personal storage devices is discouraged. For more information about the use of confidential College information, see the policy documents from the Privacy and Security task Force:

    In the event you misplace, lose, have stolen, etc any confidential College information (paper or electronic), you must contact LITS which will contact the Privacy and Security Task force in order to evaluate the incident.

Server storage should not be used for backup for personal or local storage. It is prudent, however, to do the opposite and back up server storage to local or personal storage. The exception to this relates to confidential College information which should remain on the server only.


System backups are maintained for the recovery of catastrophic system or disk failure. Since no backup system can be perfect, we cannot absolutely guarantee that your files can be completely recovered in the event of disk failure.

System backup procedures do maintain files on tape. These backups are maintained for system recovery and are not maintained for the recovery of specific information that is accidently removed. While such recovery is done on occasion (especially for critical College or academic data), it can be time consuming and is not a service that is routinely offered; and it may not be possible, depending on when the information was lost in relation to the backup schedule. There is no obligation to attempt or succeed in any recovery attempt.

It is impossible to selectively delete any file that is already stored on tape.

Archival backups

Archival backups are copies of materials made at a specific time and kept for some period of time, or indefinitely. They are "snapshots" of information at a particular time.

Since backups are maintained for the recovery of catastrophic system or disk failure, we do not maintain archival copies of material indefinitely. Full system backups are normally done two or three times per year and incremental backups (weekly/daily) are done on top of that. Tapes are recycled and full system backups are normally retained no more than a year before a full system backup set is recycled. Weekly and daily tapes are recycled more often. Because of the huge "churn" of data, we do not maintain archival backups of the system INBOXes.

For your personal and academic work, it is a good idea to maintain archival backups on your own computer or other personal storage devices. This permits you, for example, to go back in time to view a document as it was at an earlier stage of a project.

Copyright © 1969 Mount Holyoke College • 50 College Street • South Hadley, Massachusetts 01075.
To contact the College, call 413-538-2000.
This page maintained by the Department of Networking. Last modified on May 9, 2008.