UC Berkeley has decided to restrict berkeley.edu subdomains to official campus units, raising allegations that it is reneging on a decade-old deal granting student group access to these subdomains.
Subdomains of berkeley.edu include URLs such as journalism.berkeley.edu or math.berkeley.edu and are often used for campus departments and programs. Until recently, student groups could also register for top-level subdomains, but this practice has been discontinued.
“The berkeley.edu domain is an important campus resource and top-level subdomains convey an official status with the university and imply university control of the website,” said campus spokesperson Patrick Holmes in an email. “We have an obligation to ensure campus websites meet applicable university policies, including those relating to accessibility, privacy and security and support the mission of the university.”
Holmes noted the change will “minimize confusion” about what is considered an official UC Berkeley website and allow student groups to manage their own websites independently.
The new guidelines have already gone into effect for top-level subdomain requests. Holmes noted that student groups that currently hold berkeley.edu subdomains will eventually lose them, adding that no timeline has yet been established for this process.
In September, the Open Computing Facility, or OCF, which helps many student groups run their websites, requested a berkeley.edu subdomain for a student group but was denied. OCF General Manager Nikhil Jha alleged that the facility had not been informed of this change before the requests started being denied.
“This was surprising and frustrating for us, since we hadn’t been looped into any discussions about it, and we are an important part of the student group website hosting process,” Jha said in an email.
The previous process for student groups to get berkeley.edu subdomains required groups to verify registration with the LEAD center and to include a disclaimer that they were run independently from the university, according to Jha.
This process came into practice around 2013, when campus raised similar concerns about student groups using berkeley.edu subdomains. After negotiations, OCF and campus came to an agreement to require disclaimers.
“Even though we negotiated in good faith, the university is ‘altering the deal’ with regards to this process,” Jha said in the email.
Jha noted that the change came from the campus Department of Marketing and Digital Communications, which rejected the disclaimers as insufficient to separate student groups’ websites from official university ones because disclaimers were often out of view at the bottom of web pages.
The department also rejected an OCF proposal that would require that a student group marker appear clearly at the top of each webpage, according to Jha. The department now suggests that student groups be given subdomains of a subdomain of berkeley.edu, which is currently under consideration.