RIAA or students?

I'm a student, so I live in the dormitory of a Chicago university. Around last week, letters appeared on walls and elevator doors warning that any student found violating copyrights online will have their Internet suspended for a week or longer. In other words, stop sharing music because the RIAA is breathing down our backs. Not surprising, a whole bunch of schools have received similar warnings, and Internet-suspension in return for sharing music has been commonplace at my friends' universities for years.

Stealing music is bad. Heck, stealing anything is bad. But what gets me about punishing students caught doing this with Internet suspension is that you're harming their academic progress. Classes are increasingly online affairs -- whether it's accessing lecture notes on Blackboard, turning in papers digitally, or just doing research for a term paper. Suspending the Internet for even a week is not just taking away a luxury, it's a hamper on how well students do in school. And, so far, saying "My Internet was suspended," is not an excuse that's going to fly when professors ask why your term paper is late.

I understand students can't access free music illegally, just as I understand you can't smoke in dorms (in Chicago at least) and you can't start ripping the lights out of their fixtures. But, if you were caught ripping lights out of their fixtures, the university would not punish you by making you stay home from a week of classes, or by taking away your textbooks temporarily. You'd be charged a fee. Yes, a $100 is nasty for students struggling with high tuitions already, but at least they can go get that A in Arts & Urban Life.

As I see it, my university has chosen to follow the RIAA over their students. This is a dangerous position, as the RIAA doesn't pay tuition--students do. My university is threatening to hamper the very thing I paid thousands of dollars to come and do: learn, get good grades, and leave with a shiny diploma. Again, stealing music is wrong, but punishing offenders by hurting their ability to fulfill academic requirements is just as wrong.

So please, universities, let's start caring about students a little more than whiny trade groups representing failing industries, shall we?