Mascot CEO defends network’s presence on campus

To the Editor:

To help strengthen our partnership with Williams College, we would like to clarify a few issues that have been raised on campus. An excellent summary of these issues is contained in Catherine Doe’s article (“Mascot Network launched at Williams,” 28 September 1999) and your editorial (“Free network service not worth the price,” 28 September 1999). These issues include: (1) the relationship between WSO and Mascot Network, (2) student privacy concerns and (3) balancing academic and commercial interests.

It is not Mascot Network’s intent to replace or to undermine the high-quality service provided by WSO. In fact, Mascot Network and WSO are currently working together to create specific content for the Mascot Network start page. This dynamic content features services provided by WSO.

Since Mascot Network and WSO are both web-based services for the Williams student community, it’s not surprising that students would find the two similar. The primary distinction between Mascot Network and WSO is that Mascot Network’s events and announcements are personalized for each student. If you haven’t logged in yet, we think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the announcements, events, and group functionality we provide, as well as our national and local web links. We encourage you to use WSO for the services they do best and to use Mascot Network for the services we do best.

Another issue raised by Doe and the Record editorial was privacy. We at Mascot Network are well aware of the potential for the abuse of personal information on the Internet. We are committed to safeguarding the privacy of our users, and we have designed our service with privacy as a primary goal. All Williams College information on Mascot Network is password-protected and hidden behind firewalls. Due to Mascot Network’s security measures, this information is available only to members of the Williams community and authorized staff. In addition, users have complete control over what information they choose to make available to other community members. As a central business principle, stipulated in our contract with the College, Mascot Network will never sell or market individual student information to any third party organization. For more information about Mascot Network’s privacy practices, please read our Privacy Policy, which you can find at http://williams.mascot. com.

Doe and the Record also expressed concern about the commercial side of Mascot Network. As we all know, colleges are under a great deal of pressure to cut costs and limit skyrocketing tuition rates. At the same time, students are demanding increasingly complex and expensive IT services. Mascot Network can help colleges solve this problem with a minimally intrusive solution that separates commercial and non-commercial areas.

Mascot Network understands that students are participants in the market, and that many companies are eager to sell to student customers. At the same time, as members of academic communities, students have a right to an academic experience free from commercial influences. As a result, our digital student center is designed carefully to separate the online world into academic, social, and commercial venues. In the Web or Marketplace link, the Williams College name is replaced by Mascot Network to inform the student that the area is commercial and not academic. When a student chooses to go to these areas, she/he agrees to participate in the marketplace. It is Mascot Network’s stated goal to strike this balance between commercial and academic interests with the help of college administrators and students, our partners in this venture.

It is our wish that Williams College students, faculty, and staff “take ownership” of the Williams Mascot Network and bring it fully and completely to life. We provide a framework, the content and success of which depend on the participation of every Williams College student. You have the keys to the house we have created. Now it is yours to furnish. We have a firm commitment to improving student life on Williams’ campus, and we will support you in any way possible.