Stanford Says No to War loses ROTC subdomain

By and
Jan. 18, 2011, 2:06 a.m.

In its effort to influence the campus ROTC debate, Stanford Says No to War faced a minor setback last week when the University revoked the group’s use of the domain

Stanford granted the group the subdomain earlier this month, and the group had used it to redirect visitors to its site describing its opposition to ROTC. But allowing it was an inadvertent mistake, said University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin, because the group’s use violated Stanford’s computing policy.

The specific issue was that the subdomain did not match the site’s content and could mislead visitors to believe it was the official site of Stanford’s ROTC program, Lapin said. (No such program exists, though some Stanford students participate at other schools.)

“They’ve already been given, basically, real estate in the domain,” said Lapin, referring to the group’s existing website, “They’re just being told it can’t be called ROTC…it’s not an accurate representation.”

Sam Windley LL.M. ’11, president of Stanford Says No to War, said the group did not dispute the policy but criticized Information Technology Services (ITS) for revoking their ROTC subdomain on Jan. 11 before notifying the group and for not immediately providing a policy explanation.

Windley asked ITS to reinstate his group’s use of the ROTC address while his group and the University discussed policy, but University Communications declined. Meanwhile, the group has been allowed to keep its older address, where its anti-ROTC content is now located. And it is awaiting a response from Stanford about whether it may use a new address,

Lapin, who heads the communications office, said Stanford used to allocate subdomains on a first-come, first-serve basis. About a year ago, facing increased and sometimes conflicting demands, the University drafted a new policy that attempts to define “appropriate” uses.

Now, the policy seeks to “protect the University’s name, avoid confusion and reserve domain names so that the appropriate program [or] organization…can have that name,” Lapin said.  The policy allows Stanford to revoke any subdomain it grants and allows owners to appeal to the University webmaster, Scott Stocker, within 14 days.

Windley appealed last week and Stocker referred him to Lapin, who discussed the issue with the group’s leader. She said the group could apply for other domains and invited Windley to provide feedback on the process.

Lapin said the draft policy remains neutral toward the website’s actual content.

“It has nothing to do with what that group is about or what content they might put on the page,” she said. “They already have a domain, so they are not being censored in any way. This is not any kind of infringement on their rights to free speech.”

Stanford has taken similar action before, Lapin said, citing “blog” and “istanford” as two examples of subdomains the University took from other owners when it decided it had more appropriate uses for them. The first now serves as a directory of Stanford-related blogs; the latter features Stanford’s mobile applications but formerly hosted a project by graduate students in journalism, she said.

Stanford Says No to War’s members have been outspoken opponents of ROTC’s possible return to campus, which a Faculty Senate ad hoc committee began investigating in March. The program was ended on campus in the early 1970s.

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