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Higher Education @ Risk

Tracy Mitrano

Director of IT Policy

Cornell University

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Higher education is at risk of losing its relative autonomy because of the encroaching influences of government regulation, commoditization of information and knowledge, and commercialization of its services.

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Quick Background

  • The 1,000 year institution

  • Always in, but not always of, the world around it (in western society)

    • Precedes the Roman Catholic church but was born of its institution

    • Protestant Reformation spawned innumerable institutions and incalculable learning

    • Secularism and the scientific revolution continue to fuel it

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Jewel in the Crown of American Society

  • My Frye experience

    • What do you mean we are not considered by American society to be the leaders?

  • In historical perspective, higher education might be regarded as one of the United States’ greatest achievements

    • Best of separation of church and state realized

    • Cornerstone of upward mobility and middle class

  • Diversity of institutions is its hallmark

    • Liberty University and Facebook

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Relative Autonomy

  • To be diverse …

    • Big-small, state-private, religious-secular

  • … has allowed for the flowering of its missions

    • Teaching

    • Research

    • Outreach

  • Without traditional state or religious encroachments and in the float of a free- market, individualistic, middle-class society

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So What’s the Problem?

Are we so busy looking backward in time to higher education’s flourishing away from autocratic governments and controlling religious institutions that, like frogs in the beaker, we fail to experience how we are getting cooked by the newer, powerful controlling influences in American and global society?

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Government Regulation

  • Different from autocratic governments, not a total dictation, but a “getting pecked by ducks” effect of increasingly burdensome regulation

    • Classified research; select agents regulation

    • USA-Patriot Act amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)

    • Student Exchange Visitor Information System

    • E-Discovery

    • Communications Assistance Law Enforcement Act

    • Technical solutions to “technical problem of file sharing” in the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act?

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Are we becoming so overburdened with regulation that we cannot pursue our missions?

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Commoditization of Information and Knowledge

  • Copyright, copyright, copyright

    • Because the protocols are free, whoever controls what is on the Internet controls the Internet

  • Patent, patent, patent

    • Intellectual property becomes the end not the means of a business model

  • Trademark, trademark, trademark

    • Trademarks, service marks, together with copyright, will come to control every image, design and even our language … and it is all about branding.

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Copyright: Let’s Review

  • The law and technology are out of sync with current business models and social norms

    • Google Library Project and the fair use question

    • Viacom sues YouTube/Google for $1 billion

    • Peer to peer technologies, including web-based products such as BitTorrent

      • 85% of allegedly copyright-protected material transmitted over commodity networks, according to private sources

      • Industry sources place the figure at 44%

      • In either case, it is shifting away from higher education (big pipes, fast-feed software and a favorable demographic population) to private, commodity, residential use (broadband, “natives” and lower age – early middle school – without much education in the lower grades about law and policy of the Internet.

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Higher Education: Academic Delivery

  • American Association of Publishers pre-litigation letter to Cornell University

    • Two letters from the provost to all faculty advising them of compliance

      • 70% less use of e-Reserve Materials

      • If it is behind authentication, does that make it okay?

    • Cornell Electronic Course Content Copyright Guidelines

      • http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/policy/Copyright_Guidelines.pdf

    • Fair use checklist and faculty sign-off with input into course management systems.

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Berkman Center White Paper

The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyright Material in the Digital Age


(P.S. What it does not talk about is intellectual property within higher education among institution and constituents.)

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Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA)

  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notices

    • Conduit

    • Safe Harbor

  • Settlement Letters

    • To forward or not to forward, that is the question…

  • Preservation Notices

    • On the basis of what law rests compliance?

      • http://www.cit.cornell.edu/policy/memos/riaa.html

  • Intellectual Property and Free Speech

    • http://fairusenetwork.org/resources/OSPreport-2007.pdf

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What’s going on…

  • Waitin’ on the new business model

    • “We designed the CD to last 10 years…”

      • Carey Sherman, President of the RIAA, 2003

  • In the meantime, have the means become the end?

    • Taking a page out of patent law’s playbook, has intellectual property become the business model instead of the product in the entertainment arena?

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Why is Higher Education in the Bull’s Eye of the Target?

  • Object lesson for commercial ISPs?

    • Bruised by Verizon v. RIAA, gearing up for another session?

  • Who among US Congress will defend us?

    • Follow the money…

  • Because they are looking for the deep pocket?

    • The irony of technical fixes = loss of conduit status

  • Because we actually care about our students and missions?

    • Citizenship, appropriate use and code of conduct

      At what cost to our missions?

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Blackboard and Blackberry

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I’m Lovin’ It and Always Always

And Cornell

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Higher education requires the raw materials of information and knowledge to exercise its missions.

At what point does the commoditization of knowledge so impoverish us, due either to costs or mere access, that we can no longer properly pursue those missions?

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Commercialization of Services

  • Well, how about the Internet

    • Built with your tax dollars and mine … and by many of the people in this room or our compatriots in higher education

  • Proprietary layers are up for sale and in competition with each other:

    • Applications: Intellectual Property

    • Logical: Free … until someone patents them

    • Physical: the Telcoms and Brand X

  • And that is what “Net Neutrality” is all about

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Administrative Systems:Oracle v. Kuali

  • Pro

    • The collaborative, higher education past is the future.

    • It is in the spirit of higher education.

    • Ultimately it will save us money and be tailored to our needs.

    • Number of vendors is shrinking (which means choice and buying power/pressure is reduced against our favor, e.g. PeopleSoft > Oracle)

  • Con

    • The past is past, commercial is the future.

    • Higher education can’t keep up with commercial products and we shouldn’t fight the trend.

    • Too much money; let’s pressure vendors to tailor to our needs.

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Outsource E-Mail?

  • Pro

    • Students use it anyway or don’t mind if we did…

    • Too expensive to maintain, so give it away…

    • They are better at it!

  • Con

    • Commercialization of university services…where to draw the line?

    • Privacy: we know they scan it, and what will alumni think of those advertisements?

    • Control over our own systems and data, especially for emergency contacts?

    • What impact on FERPA obligations?

    • They are not as good as you think!

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What is the effect of Google’s acquisition and categorization of knowledge?

  • Mission:

    • Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

  • Means

    • Do no evil

    • AdWords and AdSense

  • Effect

    • on traditional library missions and holdings and cataloguing?

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Web 2.0: Social Networking categorization of knowledge?

Do we…

  • Block the sites?

  • Use the sites?

  • Have a policy about our use of the sites?

  • Educate students about the use of the sites?

  • Advertise and/or announce on the sites?

  • Negotiate with .com for communications, especially in emergency circumstances?

  • Build our own?

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Web 2.0: Second Life, Wikis and Blogs categorization of knowledge?

  • Do we buy an island?

  • Teach on the sites?

  • If so, who owns the intellectual property?

  • Way to go, no more Blackboard!

  • Whoa … what are the policies?

  • And implications for teaching and learning if we use commercial sites?

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Question categorization of knowledge?

At what point does the commercialization of services that undergird our missions leave us so out of control of those services that we are no longer able to support those missions?

(And how does our history in other areas such as dining halls and books stores provide an example?)

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Deleterious Public Relations categorization of knowledge?

  • Copyright Infringement

    • February 2003 to June 2007 Congressional hearings

    • Campus networks trade in child porn!

    • “NUBB means you can break the law if you pay for it!”

  • Financial Aid and Study Abroad Scandals

  • From Ward Churchill to Denice Denton to presidential debacles to Virginia Tech -- when it comes from our campuses making the headlines it is all too often bad news.

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And then there is this issue: categorization of knowledge?

Data Breach Incidents, higher education:


And this help:


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Data Steward categorization of knowledge?

Or delegate

Unit Head

Or delegate

Security Liaison

Local Support Provider


VP of IT

Director of Security

Analyst team

Director of IT Policy

Legal Counsel


Risk Assessment


Data Incident Response Team

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Proactive Measures categorization of knowledge?

  • Privacy and Security Programs

    • http://www.cit.cornell.edu/policy/environment/privacy.html

    • http://www.cit.cornell.edu/policy/environment/security.html

  • Policies

    • http://www.cit.cornell.edu/policy/framework-chart.html

  • Practices

    • http://www.cit.cornell.edu/security/prop-baseline.html

    • http://www.privacy.ca.gov/code/fairinfo.htm

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Conclusion categorization of knowledge?

Internet is both metaphor and object lesson on balance of national security and personal privacy in a world challenged by both religious and commercial extremism. With missions of learning, teaching and outreach for its own sake, higher education must play a leading role in setting international Internet policy that promotes free speech, open inquiry and the pursuit of information, knowledge and culture towards the betterment of all humanity.