University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Administrative Policy Statement
47.2



Personal Use of University Facilities, Computers, and Equipment by University Employees

(Approved by the President by authority of the Board of Regents, Standing Orders, Chapter 1)



1.  Policy

University facilities, computers, and equipment are to be used to support its teaching, research, service, and administrative functions. University employees may not use state resources (including any person, money, or property) under their official control or direction or in their custody, for personal benefit or gain, or for the benefit or gain of any other individuals or outside organizations. This prohibition does not apply to the use of state resources that are reasonably related to the conduct of official state duties or the use of resources that promote organizational effectiveness or enhance job-related skills and do not interfere with the employee's performance of official state duties.

a.   Examples of Allowed Use

Examples of uses consistent with the University's mission and reasonably related to the conduct of official state duties or promotion of organizational effectiveness or enhancement of job-related skills include but are not limited to the following:

  • Occasional use of University computing resources to review University online job postings and submit online applications for University employment opportunities.

  • Communication with appropriate other University employees to convey greetings and announcements, and to build interpersonal rapport (e.g., birthday greetings, birth announcements, carpool solicitations, and social opportunities).

  • Announcement of and participation in social gatherings to acknowledge accomplishments of colleagues or celebrate holidays and events (e.g. retirement parties and holiday gatherings).

  • Development of competency in the use of information technologies and computer resources.

  • Personal student classroom work done outside of normal work hours.

  • Occasional notices of charitable activities such as blood drives and special events.

  • Coordination of the Combined Fund Drive.

  • De minimis use of University resources by University Research Employees in connection with outside professional work related to their research and technology transfer.

b.   Criteria for Limited Personal Use

Occasional limited personal use of University facilities, computers, and equipment, including email and Internet access, is permitted only if all five of the following conditions are met (per WAC 292-110-010):

  • There is little or no cost to the state;

  • Any use is brief;

  • Any use occurs infrequently;

  • The use does not interfere with the performance of any other state employees' official duties; and

  • The use does not compromise the security or integrity of state property, information, or software.

The following are examples of permissible personal use of facilities, computers, and equipment if the use meets the conditions above:

  • Electronic communication with children and dependents.

  • Scheduling personal appointments.

  • Use of games, during breaks, that an employee does not personally install on a University computer.

2.  Responsibility for Policy and No Expectation of Privacy

University employees may make independent assessments, consistent with this policy, of the permissibility of the use of University facilities, computers and equipment for other than official state job purposes. University employees are encouraged to consult with and seek approval from their supervisors when they are uncertain about the permissibility of a use of University resources, facilities, computers, or equipment. Supervisors at all times retain discretion to restrict uses of state resources, facilities, computers, and equipment in response to concerns regarding an employee's work performance or use of University facilities, computers, and equipment that exceeds the permissible uses outlined in this policy.

In making their decisions to make personal use of University computers and equipment, employees are reminded that there should be no expectation of privacy with regard to the use of University communication technologies (e.g., email, facsimile transmissions, voicemail, and websites visited). For example, communications resulting from University computers and equipment may be subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act, in litigation involving the University, or for audit purposes.

3.  Non-University Activity

University policy permits faculty, librarians, and academic personnel to engage in outside professional work, subject to the specified limits (Executive Order No. 57). Professional and classified staff may engage in outside work activity as well, provided such activity does not intrude into their University obligations and job performance or conflict with the proper discharge of their official duties (Administrative Policy Statement 47.3).

The use of University resources including facilities, computers, and equipment for the conduct of outside work is strictly prohibited, except as allowed in Section 3.c below for approved outside work by University Research Employees. Using University property for private financial gain may be a misappropriation of state funds, a violation of the state's ethics law, and could enable state employees to compete unfairly with private businesses. Activities that are considered University service rather than outside work, but nonetheless may result in the award of an honorarium to the employee, are not subject to the prohibition on the use of University resources.

a.   Prohibited Use of Resources

University resources, including facilities, computers, and equipment, may not be used for the following purposes:

  • Conducting an outside business or private employment or other activities conducted for private financial gain.

  • Supporting, promoting, or soliciting for an outside organization or group unless otherwise provided by law and University policy.

  • Assisting an election campaign, promoting or opposing a ballot proposition or initiative, or lobbying the state legislature.

  • Advertising and selling for commercial purposes.

In addition, University resources, including facilities, computers, and equipment, may not be used in any manner that is in violation of University, state, or federal laws, rules, or policies, or to violate the rights of any third party.

Examples of restrictions on the use of University resources, facilities, computers, and equipment include but are not limited to the following:

  • University offices or laboratories may not be used as a place of business for an employee's outside enterprise.

  • University telephone numbers and addresses, including email and web addresses, may not be used or listed regarding an employee's outside business.

  • The use of University affiliations and titles in connection with an outside business must clearly acknowledge the independent nature of the employee's outside work from his or her University responsibilities.

  • University stationery and other office or consumable supplies may not be used by an employee in the conduct of an outside business.

  • University computing resources and laboratory equipment may not be used by an employee for the conduct of an outside business or to promote an outside business.

  • Personal use of any University resources, computers, or equipment to support political activities (such as assisting a campaign for election, promoting or opposing a ballot proposition or initiative, or lobbying members of the state legislature), even though not for remuneration, is not permitted.

  • Personal use of University resources, computers, equipment, or consumables that have been removed from the University or other official duty stations, is not permitted even if there is no cost to the state (e.g., use of University tools or equipment for home improvement projects).

  • Personal use of University resources, computers, or equipment for product sales, even though not for remuneration, is not permitted (e.g., online book sales or referral links to book publishers or sales houses).

  • University computing and Internet resources may not be used in violation of federal copyright law.

b.   Allowable Use of Resources

The University does possess unique laboratory or other equipment or facilities, which, by their very nature, should be available to private businesses for testing or examining proprietary products. When such situations arise, authorization for the usage must be approved through normal departmental processes (see Administrative Policy Statement 59.5). The fair rental value of the facilities, computers, and equipment requested, including costs and overhead, must be established by the dean or vice president.

c.   De Minimis Uses by University Research Employees

In order to encourage the ethical transfer of technology for the economic benefit of the state of Washington, the Washington Legislature enacted 2005 Wash. Laws Ch. 106 ("2005 Ethics Act Amendment"), which amended the Washington State Ethics in Public Service Act ("Ethics Act") to allow the University to develop, adopt, and implement, upon approval by the Governor, administrative processes that apply in place of the obligations imposed on universities and University Research Employees under specified sections of the Ethics Act. This policy on the Personal Use of University Facilities, Computers, and Equipment by University Employees has been adopted by the University and approved by the Governor in accordance with the provisions of the 2005 Ethics Act Amendment codified at RCW 42.52.220(1) and 42.52.360 (2)(c).

Notwithstanding Section 3.a of this policy, RCW 42.52.360 (2)(c) allows the University to permit acceptable de minimis uses of University facilities and other resources by University Research Employees for the purpose of conducting outside work activities that are related to their research and technology transfer, or are incidental thereto. The Ethics Act recognizes that limited use of University resources by University Research Employees for outside work purposes does not undermine public trust and confidence and can advance the mission of the University. This policy section clarifies and provides guidelines regarding what limited uses are permitted.

"University Research Employee" has the meaning stated in RCW 42.52.010(21) and as further interpreted under the applicable University policies:

University Research Employees may use their personally assigned University resources (such as offices, telephones, and computers) as well as email accounts, general University computer networks, Internet connections, and the library to conduct outside work activities that are related to their research and technology transfer, or are incidental thereto, subject to the following conditions:

  • Prior to making such use in connection with outside work, the work is approved in accordance with University policies and procedures governing outside work: Executive Order No. 57 and Administrative Policy Statement 47.3, whichever is applicable.

  • There is little or no additional cost to the University;

  • Any use is reasonable in duration and frequency and is the most effective use of time or resources;

  • The use does not interfere with the performance of the official duties of either the University Research Employee, other University employees, or students;

  • The use does not disrupt or distract from the conduct of University business due to volume or frequency;

  • The use does not disrupt other University employees and does not obligate them to make unauthorized uses of University resources;

  • The use does not compromise the security or integrity of University property, information, or software; and

  • The use does not violate any other University policy.

The following are examples of limited uses of University resources for approved outside work by University Research Employees that are permitted under Section 3 of this policy if reasonable in duration, frequency, and impact on University business operations:

  • Making a local or toll-free call on a personally assigned University telephone to discuss an approved outside work matter.

  • Using a personally assigned University computer and email account to correspond about an approved outside work matter.

  • Meeting in a personally assigned University office with an outside work client to discuss an approved outside work matter.

  • Drafting a report or preparing a speech or presentation on a personally assigned University computer to be submitted as part of an approved outside work activity.

  • Using an optical microscope personally assigned to and located in a faculty member's office to view a slide relating to an outside work matter.

  • Using resources acknowledged by a supervisor to be personally assigned, where the use meets the above limited use conditions.

  • Using publicly available information or research data from the University to carry out approved outside work.

  • Doing research for an outside work project using University Internet access and the University library, providing no additional charges are incurred.

The following are examples of uses of University resources for outside work by University Research Employees that are not permitted under Section 3 of this policy:

  • Incurring long-distance or other toll charges on a University telephone to discuss an outside work matter.

  • Using University-purchased consumables to conduct outside work.

  • Obtaining assistance from other University employees or University students to carry out or discuss an outside work project.

  • Using University laboratories, laboratory supplies, or hardware to conduct experiments or carry out projects for outside work.

  • Using equipment that is not personally assigned or is not located in the personally assigned office to conduct outside work.

  • Running tests, assays, or analyses on University laboratory equipment.

  • Using University cost centers (i.e., services for which there is a charge) for tests, assays, or analyses that are part of an outside work assignment.

  • Transferring or using University-owned intellectual property as part of an outside work assignment.

4.  Reporting Violations of the Policy

University employees are directed to Administrative Policy Statement 47.10, "Policy on Financial Irregularities and Other Related Illegal Acts," with regard to their obligation to report misuse of University resources, facilities, computers, and equipment. Employees who violate published University policies regarding the personal use of University resources, facilities, computers, and equipment, or policies regarding outside work and conflict of interest are subject to appropriate disciplinary or corrective action, including dismissal.

5.  State Investigation and Enforcement Authority

The state Executive Ethics Board has the authority to investigate allegations of improper use of state resources (per RCW 42.52.360), and it is charged with enforcing laws and rules prohibiting state workers from improperly using state resources. The Executive Ethics Board's determinations and actions are independent of any disciplinary or corrective action taken by the University.

6.  Additional Information

For additional information and clarification on the regulation of the use of state resources, University employees are directed to the Executive Ethics Board website and the Ethics Training material on the UW Internal Audit website.

May 1998; April 14, 2003; April 16, 2004; December 14, 2006; November 4, 2009; May 2, 2011.