Web space for students

The University of Montana-Missoula will not provide unsupervised Web space or Web accounts on a routine basis to students as a whole or on a more selective group basis. This applies to all Web systems in The University of Montana - Missoula Web domain (i.e., "umt.edu" and "umontana.edu") that are accessible to the public, independent of whether the Web server is operated centrally or by some other unit within the University.

Web space and/or accounts can be provided to students if all postings are approved in advance by appropriate, responsible, UMM staff.

Discussion & Procedures

Offering student Web accounts initially appeared to be a reasonable and valuable practice. However, after careful analysis, the perceived benefits have not materialized while real and potentially large costs and risks have.

There are two basic perceived benefits of offering unsupervised student Web accounts:

  1. Offering web space serves to attract students;

  2. Student pages highlight the role students play in context of the University and/or its programs.

As to the first perceived benefit, the offer of free web space was an attractant in the past, but with the proliferation of free online posting services and inexpensive hosting space, this value has dropped dramatically. In regards to the second benefit, unsupervised UM-M student posting space has resulted in several hundred pages that contain no coherent scheme or content, which rarely offer a flattering view of a program or institution. As a result, tedious processes have had to be developed and applied to resolve issues related to “inappropriate” postings. At worst, prominent incidents occur which can cause major embarrassment and liability to the University and unit involved.

A more favorable Web environment is one in which student postings are pre-screened, and ideally, carefully reviewed and coordinated by appropriate UM-M staff responsible for such accounts. Such an environment requires written guidelines that cover what is, and is not, acceptable for posting. This environment also comes with active involvement by the sponsoring unit to commit time to assist students in developing and posting materials that show both the student and the organization in a favorable light.

This policy in no way prohibits a unit from developing Web pages that highlight the role of students in the unit. It simply prohibits the practice of providing student Web space that is used outside the context of a UM-M unit, and without the careful and active management of the responsible unit. The policy also does not prohibit students from posting work associated with specific classes, where the course guidelines, specific assignments and course instructor can be assumed to provide a screening equivalent to the unit’s responsible party.