A female ’04 graduate of Lawrence University has come forward to ********The Lawrentian******* claiming authorship of a controversial e-mail encouraging seniors to streak.
She has also alleged that a subsequent trace of that email implicated a student entirely unrelated to the Senior Streak issue.
Members of Computer Services have also clarified details of an earlier ******Lawrentian******* account of the trace. Contrary to the suggestion of our original story’s headline, (“Student’s email tapped,” Oct. 22, 2004, written by Bill Dalsen, who contributed reporting to this article), Computer Services says it never accessed a student’s e-mail account, nor did it need to.
After ******The Lawrentian****** published a story about the e-mail without yet knowing its sender and with a then-sketchy concept of the e-mail’s immediate aftermath, a minor firestorm spread through campus. Since then, more information has come to light ******– as Computer Services has denied parts of the original ******Lawrentian***** account, some on LUCC have called for electronic privacy protections, and the aforementioned alumna contacted this newspaper to tell her story.
Because of her close ties to her class and its officers, the e-mail sender has requested anonymity. ****[Bold, center]*****A Brief History of the Streak Controversy****[Bold, center]*****
By the time the e-mail story hit these pages, the Senior Streak controversy had been brewing for nearly a year, since the November 2003 letter from group of administrators arrived in seniors’ mailboxes.
The letter, incorporating recommendations from nearly all full deans and the president, indicated that the practice of “Senior Streak” would be banned on the night of the Senior Dinner, and that any Lawrentians who attempted to streak would be arrested.
Additionally, the Viking Room was ordered closed on the night of the dinner.
For several years, seniors had adjourned from the traditional Senior Dinner to the Viking Room, where, after filling themselves full of free alcohol at its open bar, as many as hundreds would parade their nude bodies on a route between Colman and Sage.
School officials insisted that the event was never official, let alone condoned. And in the spring of 2003, many agreed with Andrea Powers, who was then the associate director of alumni relations, who told *****The Lawrentian***** that there was “the overall sense [that] things were out of control.”
Several students and alums, however, disagreed. The Nov. 21, 2003 edition of ******The Lawrentian***** included 12 editorials about the streak, the majority of them opposing the administrative decision.
Second term, an unknown student or students mailed fliers to many Lawrentians calling for an all-campus streak, to include underclassmen. Members of the Senior Class Programming Committee, including class President Steve Tie Shue, opposed this streak and contacted *****The Lawrentian***** suggesting a possible editorial against it, saying it misconstrued the original intent of the streak, which was to represent the close bond of the senior class.
The “protest streak” never came to pass, with the exception of a brief flash of nudity during the “Mr. LARY U” competition. And despite the aforementioned email *******- which called for a weekend streak late third term ******- most seniors stayed clothed, in public at least, until finally a smaller cadre than usual ran around in the buff on Wednesday, June 2, 2004.
********[Bold, center]***An e-mail is sent, an e-mail is traced****[Bold, center]*****
At about 2 a.m. during the spring of 2004, a female member of the Class of 2004 logged on to an Exec House computer, pressed “send” on an e-mail from email@example.com to roughly half the senior class, inviting them to streak on a night other than Senior Dinner in the hope that Senior Dinner could be more dignified without losing the streak tradition.
The e-mailer, henceforth referred to as “Senor Streak,” had been involved in a bit of planning for the senior class, and it was her understanding that the administration was not against streaking but against the apparent linkage of the streak with free university alcohol and a sanctioned campus event.
Though unrelated fliers called for a protest streak, “My e-mail wasn’t about rebellion. It wasn’t to tell anyone where to go,” she said, but rather it was to negotiate a solution that would make all sides happy. “Senor Streak” indicated that Tie Shue and others were “pulling their hair out” at the prospect of a streak taking place during a “legitimate” senior class event.
What’s more, she claims to have planned the event for a weekend she herself was out of town visiting a graduate school.
According to “Senor Streak” and Sean Schipper, an e-mail administrator for Computer Services who answered questions electronically, Powers, who oversaw the senior class events, became aware of the e-mail later that morning, and asked Schipper to trace the sender’s IP address; the results were forwarded to Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell. This action was supposed to identify the sender by discovering who was logged in to the particular Lawrence University computer from which the e-mail was sent.
“Senor Streak” was woken up that morning by a phone call around 8:30 from a member of the programming committee, who indicated that one of the class officers, Khadine Higgins, had forwarded the e-mail to Powers, who subsequently contacted Schipper.
“Senor Streak” then contacted Powers around 10 a.m. claiming responsibility. While the pair may have disagreed on the contents of the message, the student characterized the tone of the call as positive.
At this point, according to “Senor Streak,” the trace was out of Powers’ hands and the name of the student using the IP address was forwarded to Truesdell. By the time “Senor Streak” contacted Truesdell, another student had been brought in to meet with the dean because his IP address turned up as the source of the e-mail instead of the female student’s.
“I don’t know why it didn’t work, but it didn’t work,” the sender said, maintaining that she had signed in to the correct computer and that she didn’t misuse internet space.
Schipper didn’t learn what happened next. “I gave the dean of students a name and never heard anything else about it,” the e-mail administrator stated.
“Senor Streak” praises Truesdell’s handling of the situation. “[Truesdell] handled it very well, and with a good sense of humor. She wasn’t worried about the streak aspect, and didn’t have a problem once I assured her I wasn’t misrepresenting myself [electronically],” she said.
Still, “Senor Streak” suggests that if she had not come forward, someone she did not even know could have been punished *******- or at least scrutinized *******- unnecessarily.
******[bold, center]****Our story and its aftermath****[Bold, center]*****
******The Lawrentian******’s initial account of the trace was *******– as many “behind the scenes” stories at Lawrence are *******– regrettably but necessarily incomplete. Its publication, however, brought more information out of the woodwork via “Senor Streak,” who was forwarded the article by Tie Shue.
The article also inspired talk in LUCC of pushing for network privacy protections, and the issue ended up in LUCC’s Student Welfare Committee for discussion, where Robert Lowe of Computer Services took issue with the notion of an e-mail “tap.”
A week ago today, Schipper contacted Dalsen to clarify the technical specifics of October’s story.
What was initially called an “e-mail trace” was rather in fact a rather simple “IP trace,” which gathers the unique IP address of a particular computer, then checks it against a list of users on the network at a particular time.
“Since I’ve been the e-mail administrator (about a year and a half), this has been the only request of its kind,” Schipper said, suggesting that this is not a common practice or policy.
Still, in the October article, Truesdell noted that there is not a specific policy saying who has access to ask for personal computer-related data. Since that article came out, however, the issue has come under closer scrutiny, becoming a topic of conversation and debate between student policymakers, journalists, and administrators alike.