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Rules for Users of
Penn's Electronic Resources

Penn's Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources is the framework within which the Penn community understands its rights and responsibilities with respect to the electronic environment. It is the responsibility of the Vice President for Information Systems and Computing to publish specific rules that interpret the policy.

Rules governing the following topics have been established:

Username Changes on E-mail Accounts

Rule Effective July 1, 1997:   Individual PennNames and usernames on systems synchronized with PennNames will not be altered once assigned unless an individual's legal name changes, a PennName is judged offensive to the Penn community, or e-mail harrassment or threats warrant a change.

Notes Usernames on major e-mail systems are derived from PennNames, a central, consolidated database of username information. PennNames was created to provide individuals a single username that will be valid for all Penn accounts and information systems. The integrity of PennNames is crucial to Penn's evolving electronic environment.

To request a PennName change due to a change in legal name, report a possibly offensive username for review or report an incident of electronic harrassment or threat contact your local support provider.

Operation of Large Mailing Lists

Rule Effective July 1, 1997:   Large mailing lists must be administered by their creators to minimize adverse impacts on campus systems, list recipients, and users sharing electronic resources. Users creating a large mailing list must:

  • Permit no more than two authorized e-mail accounts to send messages to the list;

  • Configure the list to prevent recipients from responding to the whole list;

  • Send messages that do not exceed 1KB, contain only text, and refer recipients to NetNews or web postings for more information when appropriate;

  • Comply with special handling requests from administrators of large e-mail systems offering alternate delivery mechanisms -- i.e. administrator receipt of the message text and a list of the recipients on specified hosts for special handling; and

  • Configure the "sender" and/or "reply-to" address of list messages to point to a mail alias so that the true sender's e-mail account is not flooded with responses from recipients. A message must always have a valid "reply-to" alias address.

Notes A large mailing list is one where:

  • The total number of addresses in the list exceeds 750, or

  • The total number of addresses bound for a single e-mail server exceeds 500, and the list is not an ISC, School or department-created class list.

Rules governing the maintenance of large mailing lists apply regardless of whether they were created manually (by collecting the addresses and building the list by hand) or automatically (by accessing a database, data warehouse, or directory and building a list based on a query or set of criteria). For information about automatic list creation, contact the appropriate Data Steward or ISC Data Administration.

Schools, centers, or departments may impose these rules on lists of varying sizes. Creators of lists exceeding 100 recipients are encouraged to follow these rules.

Rights of List Participation

Rule Effective July 1, 1997:   Users have the right to unsubscribe from any e-mail list except those in which they are informed that participation is mandatory, i.e. faculty class lists, public-service lists, or work-group lists. Recipients may justifiably object if inappropriate messages are sent to any list.

To facilitate these rights, list creators must:

  • Make available instructions on how to unsubscribe;

  • Create an e-mail alias of the form to facilitate communication about subscribing and unsubscribing;

  • Create an e-mail alias of the form "" to facilitate communication about inappropriate messages; and

  • Allow users to unsubscribe themselves if possible.

Notes From a recipients point of view, list messages can be solicited (where the recipient has voluntarily subscribed to a mailing list) or unsolicited (where the recipient has not voluntarily subscribed to a list). Users who subscribe to lists may, however, not view each and every message as solicited. On the other hand, some unsolicited list mail may be appropriately sent to users by virtue of their participation in the electronic environment (e.g. system messages to users and public safety messages).

To further facilitate unsubscription rights, list creators should also consider attaching the following footer to all list mail:

This message was sent to you by the listname mailing list. To unsubscribe, send a message with the word "unsubscribe" in the body of your message to

For additional perspectives on unsolicited e-mail see information on spamming.

Maintenance of Message Archives

Rule Effective July 1, 1997:   To protect the privacy rights of individuals, creators of collaborative environments -- whether by means of e-mail, listserv, NetNews, class lists, or any other means -- must post clearly to all new users the existence of any message archives, the duration of time for which the archives are kept, the individuals who have access to the archives, and under what circumstances the archives are made available. Changes to the archive rules must be publicized promptly.

Notes For an overview of collaborative technologies, see the document Collaborating via the Internet.

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