Colgate has several returning students that will be attending fall semester classes from outside the US. Colgate makes every effort to keep data and identity information private. While these efforts are substantial there could be situations where students attending classes remotely from outside the US from places such as China may feel uncomfortable attending classes that may cover controversial topics. To protect data on campus we continue to use the latest technologies and encourage everyone to enable multi-factor authentication. Further, our LMS Moodle as well as video conferencing technologies such as Zoom are encrypted. In addition, Colgate has chosen to only use US-based zoom servers. We offer the following framework for faculty concerned about these issues in their classes to consider:
- Disclose course content to students – for courses that deal with potentially sensitive political topics, the full content of the course should be clearly described to students at the start of the class. This transparency will allow them to make an informed decision on whether to remain enrolled in the course in a remote environment or to defer enrolling until they can take the course in-person.
- Practice enhanced data security - Colgate makes every effort to keep data and identity private. Common services such as Google, Moodle, and Zoom are protected by strong encryption and we use only U.S.-based servers for all Zoom calls set up through a Colgate account. Typically, the use of a virtual private network (VPN) would be suggested to encrypt a user’s internet traffic to prevent “eavesdropping” of data. However, the use of VPNs is not always legal in some countries and their use could potentially put students at risk. Faculty and students can take additional steps to enhance their data security. We encourage everyone to enable multi-factor authentication on their Colgate and Google accounts and to take appropriate steps to avoid “phishing” attempts to steal credentials. We also encourage taking all appropriate steps to enhance the security of zoom calls as suggested by ITS. In addition, faculty may store class content securely at medialibrary.colgate.edu. Students in China and elsewhere should be able to access this site securely. By taking these steps, we minimize the risk of data breaches by third parties, including governmental actors. Additionally, it is important to note that access to VPN and other services could be blocked. We strongly encourage faculty and students to have a backup plan/option in case such a situation were to arise.
- Avoid default recording of remote classes – making recordings of all classes by default and publishing them for all students to access may present an increased risk. You may also consider having students enrolled in the class to commit to not record these classes as well. Clearly there are cases where providing recordings of classes to specific students is appropriate. We recommend working with ITS to determine how best to provide appropriate access to specific students in these cases.
- Accommodations on class discussions or other work – while many of us consider class participation as an important element of course evaluation, it is important to recognize that some students may not feel comfortable participating in all discussion topics if there are politically sensitive issues involved. We encourage you to work with students who have such concerns to allow them to participate in the discussion in an alternate (more anonymous) modes or to refrain from such discussions without penalty to their grade.
Rather than offering rigid requirements, we offer these ideas to allow you to consider what steps, if any, are appropriate for your own situation. We will also be reaching out to international students learning remotely to provide guidance and allow them to make the best determination on the appropriate coursework to take while in a remote learning environment. We encourage departments and programs to be flexible in curricular requirements where such issues might arise for a student.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to ITS for assistance in considering the best approaches to cybersecurity and privacy for your courses. Understanding that these are complex issues, we also encourage you to reach out to one of the Associate Deans of the Faculty for assistance in thinking through appropriate responses to specific situations and challenges. You can contact ITS by email at email@example.com or by phone at 315-228-7111.