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A Personal Moratorium on Office 365

Submitted by Staff on Fri, 12/02/2016 - 09:00

On December 2, 2016, President David M. Hughes updated the union membership on the Microsoft Office 365 issue.

Dear Colleagues,

As you probably know, the administration continues to migrate email addresses to the Office 365 platform, otherwise known as Rutgers Connect. That technical change – combined with a revision in policy – has raised critical concerns regarding faculty privacy and administrative surveillance. To allow us to clarify those issues and the many ambiguities, the Union requested a moratorium on the migration. But Old Queens refused. I am writing you now to update you on the status of labor-management negotiations on this issue. Since there has been no progress since my last message, I will also suggest means of instituting your own personal moratorium.

Labor and management, and their respective attorneys, met last on 13 September. Both sides had agreed to meet again on 31 October, but the Administration canceled that gathering on short notice. They have offered us no further meeting dates. In the interim, we have submitted a draft memorandum of agreement with three points:

1.    The “University business” – for which Rutgers policy now requires us to use Rutgers email addresses – does not include matters of scholarship, research, and pedagogy or personal, political, or Union-related communications;
2.    Office 365 should permit a faculty member to forward messages automatically, provided she does so to an address not shared with another individual;
3.    The Administration may read email communications on Rutgers servers only through and after a semi-judicial review process established by the Union and the Administration.

Now, regarding your own personal moratorium or means of opting out of Office 365, the Union has already stated Point #1 above. President Barchi also said as much orally in his response to questions at a meeting of the University Senate on 23 September. Indeed, he indicated that the Administration did not intend to define “University business” as embracing research, scholarship, and pedagogy. Based on these understandings, the Union advised that you may conduct these types of communications outside Rutgers servers. Indeed, most faculty will only need to use Rutgers email addresses for communicating with students about academic performance and communicating with patients about their health. By not using Rutgers email addresses – at least for the time being – you will also achieve Points #2 and #3 above.  

Finally, there are two further, deeply technical issues that suggest a personal moratorium. First, the Administration has yet to explain the capability of the Mobile Device Management app. Once installed on your cell phone, this feature allows the Administration to erase, at least, the Rutgers emails on your phone and possibly the entire the contents of your phone. Of course, you might want the Administration to erase the phone – if it were stolen, for example – but the protocols around erasure remain unclear. Certainly, do not download Mobil Device Management until we, you, and our Counsel are satisfied with such protocols.

Second, Rutgers Connect still suffers from a breathtaking glitch: all emails you send through it will appear to originate from an address that starts with your NetID. The IT Office at the School of Arts and Sciences has described this so-called “SendAs issue” here. As that page explains, you can manually change each message back to your “vanity address” but you cannot do this globally or automatically. So if you have changed your name (e.g. through marriage or divorce), or hold a random-character NetId, or simply don’t want to confuse correspondents, you are out of luck so far. The IT folks have been endeavoring to fix this problem, and they appear to be close to finalizing a (somewhat cumbersome) workaround. Stay tuned…

Of course, all this heavy-handedness, opacity, and lack of due diligence tend to arise when Old Queens buys products before consulting with faculty. Such is the nature, very regretfully, of the corporate university we are coming to inhabit.

In solidarity,

David M. Hughes
Professor of Anthropology (SAS-New Brunswick)
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union

Rutgers AAUP-AFT
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08904
Office phone: (732) 964-1000
Fax: (732) 964-1032
Main union email:

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