Passwords are ubiquitous these days and choosing ones that are hard to guess and easy to remember is challenging. The following tips will help make your digital life more secure.

Don’t share your passwords with anyone. Even if someone is claiming to help you, it is probably a scam. IT departments and customer service representatives know not to ask customers for passwords. If you did share a password, change it as soon as possible.

Don’t use the same password for your accounts. If hackers guess your password, you can be sure they will try it on your other accounts.

If possible, use two-factor authentication.  Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security to your account. Even if someone successfully hacks your password, he or she still needs to have access to a token that is sent to your mobile device. Read more about two factor authentication and how to enable it on many popular websites here: https://www.turnon2fa.com/.

Create long passwords. Use at least 16 characters if possible.

Passwords should be easy to remember but hard to guess.

  • Try to use sentences or phrases.  Avoid single words, or a word preceded or followed by a single number. Hackers use databases of words to guess passwords.
  • Don’t use birthdays, home addresses, or the names of your significant others. Hackers mine social media accounts for password clues.

Make your password complex.  Use upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Try to have at least one of each of these in your password.

Don’t create a document on your computer with all your passwords. Hackers can easily search hard drives for password information if they get access to your computer or mobile device.

Use a password manager. Password managers store your passwords securely and allow for extremely complex passwords which you do not need to remember. Typically, you have one master password that you need to access your entire collection of passwords. Make sure you can access them across multiple devices. If you use a password manager on a school computer, make sure to sign out before you finish. Here are some examples of free password managers:

The Commons is a social network and collects personal data and content. If you wish to see the content you have contributed, you can  request it.

Go to Commons Profile >> Settings>>Export Data.

You will then see this screen. Click on the Request personal data export button.

The process is currently manual, and may take a couple days to process. You will receive an email with a download link. Additionally, you can return to the request page to download your personal data from a hyperlink.

Your personal data will come as a zip file. Decompress the file and save. You should see a file named index[1,2,3, etc].html.

Click on the file to view in your browser. You will see a record of all the content you have contributed to the Commons, including your user information, profile information, comments, media uploads, posts, pages, etc.

Why Is This Important?

If You Are A Student

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. If you wish to delete your some or all your content on the Commons, contact us.

Not A Student?

The Commons respects member privacy and will work with you to delete some or all your content, as you desire.

When you first join and start using the Commons, you’ll probably want to personalize it. To register, you probably had to use a CUNY email address – but you might want to change that email address to the one you use more often. You can change your display name so that it’s not your username. For security, you’ll want to know how to update your password every now and then. If you are using the Commons as your online presence, you will want to start building your Commons Portfolio. You’ll want to join groups, follow sites, and make friends so that your My Commons page has content that is relevant to you.

The CUNY Academic Commons is an open space where the CUNY community can find like-minded colleagues, build personal or professional websites, teach or attend CUNY courses, and collaborate in open classrooms.


The CUNY Academic Commons: What Will You Build? view on Vimeo.

Accounts & Profiles

What is the CUNY Academic Commons?

The CUNY Academic Commons is an open space where the CUNY community can find like-minded colleagues, build personal or professional websites, teach or attend CUNY courses, and collaborate in open classrooms.

New to the Commons? Here are some recommended links:

How do I change my email address?

To register to the Commons, you need a CUNY email address. Once you have finished registering, you can switch to a more convenient email address.

Please note: Commons members have two email addresses.

Your Notification Email Address (i.e. your “official” email address)

This is the address you use to reset your password and to receive Commons notifications. To change this,  go to the top black navigation bar, hover over your avatar in the top right corner and select: My Settings>> General. To change your email, re-write your preferred email in the ‘Email Address’ field, then scroll down and select “Save Changes.”

Your Profile Email Address

By default, this is not displayed. To add or change the email displayed on your Commons Profile, go to the top black navigation bar, hover over your avatar in the top right corner and select: My Profile>> Edit. Re-write your preferred email in the ‘Email Address’ field, then scroll down and select “Save Changes.”

I forgot my password, how can I reset it?

To reset your password, go to  https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/wp-login.php?action=lostpassword and enter username or email address. Click “get new password.”

You will receive an email with  a link to a page where you can reset your password.

What are mentions and how are they used?

The @mention system links others to the hyperlinked profile of the individual while notifying the individual of the mention via email. If you are trying to reach out to specific group members, simply put the @ symbol in front of their username and it will send a notification to their email address and show up in their @mention activity stream. To learn more about the @mention system read this blog post.

How do I upload a photo of myself to appear on my profile and other areas?

After logging into the Commons, go to the top black navigation bar and hover over your existing (or default) photo.  Go to My Profile»Change Profile Photo.  Here you will find detailed instructions on how to upload an image. You can also create a gravatar, which will enable you to use that same image across many different types of websites.

What are “notifications”?

The Notification link (on the top right bar of the Commons, just to the left of your avatar) indicates if you have a new message, friend request, or invitation to join a group.  Zero indicates that you have no notifications.

How can I change my password?

After logging into the Commons, go to the top black navigation bar and hover over your avatar.  Go to: My Settings» General. Enter your current password and  your new password, then scroll down and select “Save Changes.”

How do I change my display profile name?

After logging into the Commons, go to the top black navigation bar and select: My Profile» Edit.  In the text box under “Full Name (required)” fill in your preferred name, then scroll down and select “Save Changes.”

How do I send a message?

To send an email to another member, you can either find them on the member list or you can hover over your avatar in the top right corner, click the “My Messages” link on the left, and click “Compose.”  Start typing the person’s first name in the addressee box and the program will give you a list of all the members whose names include the letters you’re typing.  Next to the addressee box is an empty box for copying other members. Do the same thing in this box that you just did for the addressee. Each time, you do this, a new box will appear for another person to whom you might want to send a copy of the message.

How can I change email notification settings?

Go to the top black navigation bar and hover over your avatar in the top right corner.  Click My Settings >> Email.  Here you can choose whether you want to receive an email notification for a variety of activities, including posts to the groups you belong to, posts by your friends, posts to blogs you subscribe to, or follow, and messages.

Can member profiles be made private? How can I prevent my profile from showing up in a google search?

Right now, there is not a way to make Profiles private, but we can look into developing that functionality. For now, users worried about privacy should avoid using their full names on their profiles (some combination of initials and first or last names might be good). Certain profile fields can be made visible to only yourself, to your friends on the Commons, logged in members of the Commons, or the default – to everyone.  To change profile field visibility, go to click on the “Change” hyperlink next to the text that reads:

“This field can be seen by: Everyone Change.”

Most, but not every field has this visibility setting.

How Do I Delete My Account?

To delete your account, go to the top black navigation bar and hover over your avatar in the upper right corner.  Click My Settings >> Delete Account, then follow the directions on the page.

Note that you must be logged in to do this. If you no longer remember your password, you can reset it: here – https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/wp-login.php?action=lostpassword. If you no longer have access to the email you used to register, please contact your campus IT to re-establish the email.

The Commons is a great space to manage your department or committee! Typically, private groups are used to centralize documents, discuss topics, post minutes, and collaborate on projects.

[more to come]

Members use the Commons in many different ways.  Listed below are some of them:

We encourage faculty to explore teaching on the open web using the Commons, but it is important to vigilantly respect student privacy. Both groups and sites have privacy settings that can be used to control visibility. Many class groups are private and can only be seen by the professor and class members. Some group sites are private, but many are open to the world wide web. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to discuss those settings with your students and make sure they are aware of the potential visibility of their work on the Commons. If they are uncomfortable with doing work in a semi-open or open space, then it’s important to allow them to complete course requirements via other methods.

Student Aliases

Students can also use aliases to cloak their identities.  When first registering on the Commons, a student needs to provide a username (one word, all lowercase, no special characters).  By default, that name will be used to attribute content created by that student.  However, on each member profile there is also a full name, which defaults to the username. After registration, most members of the Commons fill this in with their actual name.  If a student is concerned about privacy, this field can be used as an alias.  The student would then need to inform the professor of his or her true identity.

WordPress sites also have “screen names.”  If the class does not use a group, this may be an easier alternative.  The professor can easily go to “Users” and correlate screen names with actual names.

If the class is also using a group, this might not be the best option.


If you set up your profile a while ago, you may have entered something in the title field. We’ve retired that area of the profile, so you cannot change it . Instead, please use the Positions Widget.

Three fields are available – College, Department, and Title.  Use the text boxes to add each position you want to display on your profile.  Use the “+ Add New” hyperlink to add another one.  The widget will automatically create a list for you.

Once you put anything it the widget, Title will disappear.

As a Commons user there are a number of situations in which you may want to invite others to a site or group of which you are a member.  Step-by-step instructions for sending invitations are here, but before you go there, you should think about how the following common scenarios will affect the choices you make:

  • You are teaching a class that will use the Commons as part of the syllabus
  • You have a site (blog) on the Common and you want to expand your audience or ensure that certain colleagues have a chance to see your posts
  • You are the member of a working Group that is adding new members

While each of these situations is different, they all use the same invitation procedure which can be launched from a Group or a Site as well as other locations. Before you begin the invitation process, consider whom you will be inviting and plan accordingly. While the overall process may be the same, there some slight variations depending on the answers to the following questions.

  1. Are the invitee(s) already member(s) of The Commons or not?
  2. What role do you want the invitee(s) to play in the Group or Site?
  3. Do you wish the invitee(s) to join one or many Group(s) and/or Site(s)?
  4. Are you inviting multiple people or just one?

Are invitee(s) members of The Commons?

In order for someone to join your group or site, they must be members of The Commons. This may be the trickiest part of the invitation process. If the person you are inviting is already a member of The Commons, you can invite them to a Group or Site by selecting their name from a list of Commons Members. If they are not already members of The Commons, you can invite them to The Commons and to your Group or Site simultaneously by using their email address (must be a CUNY email address, though there are exceptions which will be discussed later). If you are inviting multiple people you can combine the two above methods. It is certainly possible that you do not know whether the person you are inviting is a member of The Commons or not. In that case, you have two options. You may search for them on the Members List or you may assume they are not members and invite them via their email address, which will work well.

What role do you want the invitees to play?

Keep in mind that if you invite multiple people at the same time, they will all be assigned the same role.

Groups have three roles: Member, Moderator and Administrator with different privileges and capabilities. The default role is Member, which is the appropriate choice most of the time. Documentation regarding other roles is here.

Sites have five roles: Author, Subscriber, Contributor, Editor and Administrator. The default role is Author. A discussion of these different roles and how they impact a user’s functionality is located here.

Do you wish the invitee(s) to join one or many Group(s) and/or Site(s)?

Most commonly, you will be invite colleagues to only one Site or Group at a time, but you have the ability to invite a person to any Group or Site of which you are a member. It’s just a matter of checking them off the list on your screen.

Are you inviting multiple people or just one?

When using a Group or Site for your class you will typically invite the entire class to the Class Group and/or Class Site. The invitation process makes this task very easy to do. But a single colleague can be invited just as easily.