Staff policy

Staff members shall be chosen by the OCF Decision Making Process. [per OCF Board decision on 4/13/89]

[The rest of this policy is per Site Manager decision on 8/30/17]


The OCF Decision Making Process spells out the powers of BoD, the GMs, and the SMs; however, it doesn’t explain what powers other staffers have. The main purpose of this policy is to delineate what things staff can do on their own, what things they must not do, and what things they require special permission from the SM to do.


Staff are authorized to act independently of the SMs unless otherwise specified here or elsewhere. This is so staff are not obstructed by having to ask the SMs for approval for all decisions.

Root privileges

The Site Managers have the sole power to add staff to the ocfroot group, otherwise grant root privileges on a machine which runs a production service or which mounts NFS, create and grant privileges to /admin principals, and grant other powers which can be used to gain the aforementioned privileges or access other OCF members’ data.

Staffers in the ocfroot group are known as Technical Managers.

To be eligible for Technical Manager status, you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • A Site Manager must be able to recognize you in person.
  • You must have been a staffer for at least a semester already (although this requirement can be waived at the discretion of an SM).
  • You must demonstrate a concrete, actual need for root privileges (e.g. a command you need to run which is blocking your OCF work).

The Site Managers can revoke Technical Manager status. This can happen, for example, if root privileges aren’t actively being used.

If you are a Technical Manager, use your additional powers wisely. Remember that you must respect the privacy of other members. In particular:

  • Don’t read or modify a member’s files or directories unless one of the following is true:
    • The file or directory’s permissions ordinarily grant you access.
    • The member has requested it (explicitly or implicitly).
    • You have probable cause to suspect that the member may be involved in some policy violation (e.g. a security breach).
  • The above restrictions also apply to surveilling members’ private activity on the OCF (e.g. by strace’ing their processes, recording network packet captures, etc.).
  • If you do have to access a member’s files or other private data, limit your accesses to the minimum required to perform your duties.
  • Let other members know when possible if modifying their files.

Here are some additional guidelines to follow:

  • If you don’t have to use root for something, don’t use it.
  • Avoid running an interactive shell as another user (or else you may cause undesirable side effects like polluting their bash_history or updating their last login time).
  • Avoid using a root shell (i.e. sudo -i).

Abuse of root privileges

The worst thing an OCF staffer could do is abuse root privileges. Abuse of root privileges constitutes anything done using root privileges which is in violation of OCF policies, University policies, or applicable laws. Examples of this are violating members’ privacy (including reading or modifying their files without reasonable cause), harassing members, maliciously logging people out, deliberately compromising OCF security, etc. Abuse of root privileges may result in consequences including, but not limited to, loss of root and/or staff privileges, being banned from the OCF, and/or being referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Amending of certain policies

There are some policies (e.g. this policy, the Unattended Processes Policy, …) that the Site Managers have the power to amend. The SMs’ power to amend these policies is not delegated to the Deputy Site Managers or any other staffer. In other words, staffers cannot unilaterally make changes to these policies without the SMs’ (or GMs’ or BoD’s) approval.

Site Managers should promptly inform staffers whenever they make amendments to any such policies.