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Computer and Network Access:

Conditions of Account


Computer and network access at Mount Holyoke College is provided in accordance with the Policy on Responsible Use of Computing Resources.

A computer account provides access to various computing or network resources at Mount Holyoke, such as the moodle learning management system, the ISIS student, faculty, and staff information system, email, and others. Not all accounts have access to all of the resources.

Computer account is for your use only

This account is for your use only. The password is not to be given to anyone else for any reason. If you suspect someone has obtained your password, change it immediately and request assistance from LITS (x2600) if necessary.

Sharing of accounts is strictly prohibited. The use of your account by anyone else is considered a breach of system security.

If you ever get an email message that asks for your password, do not answer it. Those messages are always a fraud. If you answer such a message, someone else will use your account. Among other things, your account could be used for sending tens of thousands of spams.

Password security

Because of the growing numbers of passwords we all have to contend with, having a personal strategy for password security is important.

You should consider having a few, unrelated and very secure passwords for specific purposes, such as your banking and credit card(s) and your MHC account.

  • Unique password
    Your primary MHC password should be different from any other password. It should not be used for other purposes such as Meeting Maker or a Windows login. It should absolutely never be used on any non-MHC computer.
  • Safe and secure password
    Your password should have a high degree of internal security so that it cannot be guessed or discovered using hacking tools. Selection of secure passwords is discussed in our password changing programs.
  • Changing passwords
    Passwords should be changed to unrelated passwords periodically. This reduces the chance that the system will be compromised because someone was able to detect or discover your password.

    Too frequent password changes, however, can lead to easy to guess passwords.

  • Storage of passwords electronically
    Do not allow your desktop computer to "remember" passwords for you. This is a problem for two reasons. First, it can cause you to forget your password. Second, it means that anyone with physical access to your computer can access your information.
  • Storage of passwords physically
    For years security professionals have said that you should never write down your password. Unfortunately, with the number of passwords many people have to deal with today, storing passwords somehow is important.

    If you write your password down, do not leave it under your keyboard or anywhere that someone might be able to discover it. Keep it in a secure location. (Consider not writing it down exactly; omit a letter or number.)

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.

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

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.

An account that has been inactive for over a year may be inactivated. It may be reactivated on request if the individual wishes to use it again.

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.

Infractions of acceptable use

  • Illegal activities
    Illegal activities using the College network or computers are prohibited. (Many of the specific examples below fit into this category.)
  • "Hacking"
    Attempting to gain unauthorized access to any other system. In some cases, this may fall into the category of criminal behavior.
  • Copyright law violation
    Copyright infringement can put you and/or the institution at risk of legal action which can, at the very least, be very expensive.
  • Commercial use
    College computers and network will not be used for any personal business activity that is not related to the mission of the College. While this does not preclude intermittent posting of items for sale in appropriate newsgroups, advertising is not permitted. Presentation of a personal resume on your personal homepage is not considered a commercial purpose.
  • Excessive use of resources
    The computers and network are a shared resource. It is difficult to define exactly what is excessive use of these resources, but if affects others' uses of the systems, it is excessive.

    As a user of the computer system, you are a member of a larger community. Actions you take have an effect on others. For example, excessive use of disk resources or computer time can negatively impact others' use of the system and will have to be curtailed unless special and valid reasons are given. (It is usually the case that occurrences of these problems are accidental and are corrected by informing the individual of the problem.)

    Another example would be a personal computer system spewing large amounts of traffic onto the network.

  • Inappropriate resource use
    Various resources, such as disk space, is provided for specific purposes. For example, disk space in a departmental shared area should not be used for personal information. Another example would be the use of a mailing list for something other than its intended use.
  • Allowing access to campus resources to non-community members
    This may occur, for example, if a personal computer is compromised (hacked) or infected with a virus or a "bot".
  • Harassment and other unwanted contact
    Do not continue to attempt communications with someone who has indicated that communication is not desired. After someone has indicated that communication is not desired, continued attempts may be considered harassing.
  • Falsifying identity
    Forgery or other misrepresentation of one's identity via any form of electronic communication.
  • Spam
    Do not send unsolicited bulk email (spam) not related to the College mission. Do not use mailing lists for purposes for which they were not intended.
  • Network attached devices
    Any device on the network that adversely affects the network should be removed.

For more details on Acceptable Use, please see Policy on Responsible Use of Computing Resources at Mount Holyoke College (pdf)

Information stored on College computers

Personal information on accounts must be saved by the account owner prior to the end of the term of the account.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  3. 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.

    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.

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To contact the College, call 413-538-2000.
This page maintained by the Department of Networking. Last modified on March 21, 2010.