Personal Use and Misuse of University Property

Effective: Moved to Policy Library from UPM 2.5(10)
Reviewed and Updated: August 10, 2016
Contact: Senior Vice President for Operations and Finance


This policy provides clarification regarding personal use and misuse of university property. State law, specifically Section 721.2 of the Iowa Code, prohibits any state employee from using, or permitting any other person to use, property owned by the state or any subdivision or agency of the state for any private purpose or for personal gain to the detriment of the state. Violation of this statute is a serious misdemeanor.

Policy Statement

This policy is intended to cover all types of university property and services, including cars, supplies, telephones, typewriters and computer hardware and software, equipment, campus mail, electronic mail and copying facilities, products from university farms, and food, drugs or chemicals available from university activities. No one shall be permitted to remove for personal use from the buildings or grounds any property belonging to the university, even though it may seem to be of no value. This includes use of university equipment such as farm machinery, trucks, or other equipment during off-hours when it is not needed for university operations. Telephone service and electronic mail is provided for the purpose of conducting university business.

Office, laboratories, work areas, files and materials (either in written or electronic form maintained or stored on university premises or in university computers or servers) may be entered, opened or reviewed without prior notice by authorized university personnel either as part of maintenance or servicing procedures, in order to conduct university business or when there is a question about the use or misuse of university property. It is expected that due care shall be taken of university property so that full expected use is obtained.

Personal Use of Telephones

Whether local or long distance, personal calls from university telephones must not adversely affect the performance of the employee or the organization and must be of reasonable duration and frequency. Local personal telephone calls without additional cost to the university may be made and received by employees on an incidental or emergency basis as long as they are not detrimental to the interests of the university.

Long distance calls include any calls that are not local or free of charge to the university. Personal long distance calls cannot be charged to university extensions, authorizations numbers, or credit cards. Charging personal long distance calls is strictly prohibited and may subject the faculty, staff or student employee to disciplinary action. Any personal long distance calls are to be made at employees' own expense; e.g., charged to personal calling or credit cards, use personal cell phone, use a pay phone, etc. Should a personal long distance call occur by accident or be necessary in the case of a personal emergency, the employee must notify their supervisor of the occurrence and promptly reimburse the expense by personal check.

Departmental offices should review monthly long distance bills for all departmental staff and take appropriate action if unauthorized use of university telephones occurs.

University Computers and Email

Personal use of university computers and electronic mail should be restricted to incidental and emergency use. With the increasing use of electronic communications, staff members should keep in mind that these messages and materials may be accessed as public records if located in university facilities or equipment. In a number of cases, electronic messages written with the intent to be humorous, as well as personal or a private conversations, have become public, leading to subsequent disciplinary action and causing embarrassment to the individuals and the organization. All communication should be done in a professional and non-discriminatory fashion.

The Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources policy provides additional guidance on the ethical and acceptable use of information systems at Iowa State University.

Other University Property

Departmental offices should review operating procedures and remind staff that university facilities are not to be used for personal activities. Departmental offices are also responsible for strict supervision of stamps and other office supplies. Office supplies and stamps purchased with university funds are for use for university purposes only, and are not for resale or for use for private purposes. The proper use of university property should be the subject of careful judgment.