What is sent and received through Murray State’s Racermail email system is not as private as most may think.
The Racermail terms and agreements policy all University employees and students must agree to mentions a process through which the University makes digital record of all emails going through the system.
“It’s not something we choose to do; we have to do it,” Hal Rice, director of the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology, said. “If something came up legally, like in a trial, we would need access to emails.”
University President Randy Dunn said while he understands how a policy would cause confusion or distrust in the administration, Murray State is required to archive emails because it is a public state institution.
“I know that there’s always a little bit of paranoia around such things, but this is not at all unusual or untypical for organizations such as ours,” Dunn said.
As former director of an Illinois state agency, Dunn said it is commonplace for emails, protected by firewalls, to be archived at public agencies.
Emails are securely kept on a server and are only accessed under special circumstances, Rice said.
“It’s not like we are going to go through, viewing certain emails and not looking at others,” said Rice. “We are not looking at them at all; they are just saved if we need them.”
Rice said emails cannot be obtained by the public through an open records request and can only be acquired through a court order. A student will not be granted access to any emails from the University and the University does not have the authority to release any emails to the public, he said.
Rice said the only reason an email would be obtained would be because of a legal issue.
“We have a special confidentiality agreement aside from the one that all faculty members signed,” Linda Miller, chief information officer, said. “We have to renew it every year and it says that we may not view the emails for other than what our job requires us to do.”
Miller said anytime there is an email operating system, computer technicians and officials will have access to view emails. They are under specific legal guidelines and must only view an email if it helps them do their job.
Since emails are considered a part of University business and documents, they are subject to lawsuits. Miller said for someone to gain access, a court order would go to the attorney’s office, and then, if approved, John Rall, University attorney, would supply them with the email.
Rice said students and faculty need to be aware that email should never be used as a secure way of sending personal information.
“It is a responsibility that we take very seriously,” Miller said. “I have the same concerns as anyone else would about email. The University servers hold a lot of important of information such as grades, credit card numbers and tax information; those are all things that have to be taken very seriously.”