I recently received a question from a faculty member that gave me the opportunity to explain better CI's responsibilities and obligations for campus-owned computers. To paraphrase her question:
If I use my faculty startup funds to purchase a laptop or iPad, does that become property of the university? And, is the entire computer searchable under the Freedom of Information Act, or only the files/documents pertaining to work and the university? I am looking to use start-up money to replace my home laptop, which I use 99% of the time for teaching and research. However, I do store personal items on the computer (family photographs, music, personal email, etc.), so I would like to understand the nuances of university ownership of any computers I purchase with my research start-up money.Here's my reply, which is valid for any computer purchased with California State University funds, regardless of the source.
Start up funds are state resources, so any equipment purchased with them is property of the State of California. Technically, you are not using the funds to purchase a laptop or iPad – you are requesting that the funds be used to purchase a computer which is then assigned to you for your use. It’s probably more than you want to read, but if you’re interested, the full policy that addresses the use of any campus computer is here - https://www.calstate.edu/hrs/policies/policies_internet_use.shtml. Bottom line - for most purposes you can treat it as your computer, but really it’s a university resource as long as university funds are used to purchase it. Storing some photos or using your computer to buy something on Amazon is not a problem – It’s called “incidental use” and it’s explicitly permitted under CSU policy.