While interning (in California), I received the following e-mail from the chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department (in Florida) via the department secretary:
Date: Thu, 18 May 1995 15:02:21 -0400 (EDT) Subject: EE www Dear Mr. Walstra: Please remove all the material you have placed in the Electrical and Computer Engineering www write up. Our department home page material is intended to inform about the department. Many individuals, including me, have found "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" inappropriate and, indeed, offensive. Ditto, "The Electrical Engineering Purity Test." Is there other material you have inserted? Please let me know when your material has been removed.This was an unexpected surprise since the only thing on my Electrical Engineering Page was a link to my 'real' homepage on the Computer Science Department's server. The e-mail only proved that the author understood neither how links work nor where pages physically exist. Furthermore, the "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" story had been on-line for over a year and the EE Purity Test had existed about six months, both sans complaint. The heart of the problem, I suspected, was that the people involved were new to the WWW and ran across my page rather soon in their journey. Compared to enrollment demographics or other such administrivia, my page resembled an affront to all that is good and pure.
Feeling strongly in the right, I replied smugly (and immediately):
Date: Thu, 18 May 1995 15:26:35 -0400 (EDT) Subject: Re: EE www Please be informed that none of the material mentioned above has ever resided on the EE department's server. I am very sorry that people have taken offense with material on my WWW page (which is on the computer science's server). I believe the link-names adequately describe the HTML documents--anyone who was offended chose to follow the links. . . Steve WalstraAlthough I figured everything was cleared up, I received anonymous intelligence suggesting that the wheels were still turning, and I was about to be run over by them (to the tune of expulsion!). I removed the links and sent the following melodramatic mail (take into account that I was 3,000 miles away, so could not just walk in and talk to someone):
Date: Fri, 19 May 1995 19:57:52 -0400 (EDT) Subject: WWW page material removed Although I have not received further word from you, I have removed the two articles from my web page. Those two pages had been there for a long time, and I have never received a complaint until now. If I didn't value my education so much, I would consider contacting the ACLU. Hoping this is resolved, Steve WalstraSome other events occurred relative to this event. . . .UF's Electrical And Computer Engineering Home Page removed the direct link to the "EE Users' Home Pages" in a weak effort to impede access. My oh-so-offensive page story circulated up to the Dean of Engineering, who made an inquiry to the Computer Science Department, who contacted the sponsor of my account. Someone along the path must have informed everyone else up the chain-of-command that my pages were actually quite tame, because I haven't heard a peep about it since.
About a week after writing the final e-mail on the matter, I was struck with the idea of putting the pages behind a Tipper-Gore-inspired "Parental Warning" icon, followed by a disclaimer, so as to save any especially sensitive people from potential harm (and simultaneously cover myself). As unwarranted as I believe the entire ordeal was, I have to concede that the access and servers are provided by the departments involved, so some bowing was in order.
Addition: I happened across the following internal reference (four years later in Dec 1997) from the CISE department's chairman, forwarded to me by a system administrator friend:
To: grad cc: faculty Subject: home pages Date: Sun, 11 Jun 1995 15:47:45 EDT Dear Grad Students: I have received complaints from other department chairs that there is considerable trash on CISE grad students' www pages. The CISE web pages we provide you are a privilege, not a right! Please don't abuse this privilege. I am herewith asking you to remove any racist, sexist, or otherwise obscene material. Noncompliance may force me to do remove grad students from the CISE www. Other departments (e.g., ECE) have already done this. Thanks for your cooperation. Gerhard Ritter
Written up a year after the fact (Sun Jul 28 16:50:26 PDT 1996) by Steve Walstra © 1996
Last edited Dec 1997
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