All-Student Email Policy Should Be Revisited

St. Mary’s all student emails are a bit out of control. Every day, students’ inboxes pile up with all-student emails at a pace that is hard to keep up with.

Over a recent two-week period, an average of 15 all-student emails were sent each day. It has gotten to the point where the actual important emails are being drowned out in a flood of correspondence that gets almost completely ignored.

For example, on March 5, 17 all student emails were sent to the campus. 16 were about events, or club programs, and one solitary email was an important reminder for students to check their portal accounts for unpaid balance with the school. How many people saw that email?

Over the time period that the point news observed, only 11 percent of the all student emails were from the college administration. By contrast, a total of 50 percent, or about 8 emails per day, were about on campus performances, sports events, academic events, and club activities.

Some are interesting to me, but most of them are just an annoyance, destined for deletion as soon as I read their titles. I’m sure most emails that end up in your in box meet a similar fate.

In fact, I would be amazed if there are more than a handful of students on campus who actually read every all student email that gets sent to them. Heck, I would be impressed if even one student did that. Not a single student I know can claim that achievement.

18 percent of all-student emails were categorized as “Other”. Their topics ranged from students looking for SMP participants, to emails like this gem sent out on March 6: “If someone could return my coat from a gathering in NC 25 that would be great. Thanks!” Did every student on campus really need to know that you left your coat at NC 25? I think not.

Then there are the emails that are unnecessarily flagged as being important. This is a good feature to have when sending out something like an emergency announcement to the campus. It is less appropriate when used to flag “Kareoke [sic] Night!!!!,” as was the case with one recent email.

Another problem with the current all-student email policy is that people send all-student emails with needlessly massive attachments. Hardly a week goes by without someone sending an event announcement with a 2, 3, or even 6 Megabyte image attached to it.

A student with room left in their inbox for hundreds of plain text emails could suddenly find their inbox completely full after getting just one such message. It’s happened to me more than once.

I think there is a relatively painless solution that could fix every gripe I have with current email policy. A Web page could be setup by the college, where people with all student email access would post their messages. The Web page could limit file sizes for attachments, preventing the dreaded 6MB inbox killers.

That Web page would then relay the messages to students who could then decide how they want to receive them. There could be options such as: receiving every email immediately (like the current system), or people could choose to receive a “daily digest,” where every message from the day would be organized into one email. Such daily digests have existed since the earliest days of email.

With that system, any time an actual important email needs to be sent to students, it wouldn’t have to compete for attention with the other 14 emails from that day.

This isn’t the first time that all-student email has been a topic in The Point News. Almost exactly 10 years ago, in late March of 2000, the campus was under siege from a barrage of email, the likes of which the campus has never seen since (“Mass Emails Spark Controversy.” The Point News, April 4, 2000).

At the urging of then SGA president, Andrew Mosley, all student email access was given to every student on campus — all 1600 of them. Initially, students used the new privilege judiciously as the administration had intended. Soon though, students would be likening the situation to “Giving a machine gun to a monkey.”

It didn’t take long for unnecessary emails to start clogging up in boxes. People began to get annoyed, and while sending emails to complain to the original senders, they accidentally “replied all”, sending their response not just to the authors or the original emails, but also to the entire campus.

Then someone “replied all” to that email, which prompted even more “reply all” responses. Things quickly got out of hand.

The email madness that ensued was so chaotic that at one point it nearly crashed the campus email server, which had developed such a backlog of email that it was taking hours for emails to reach their recipients.

Less than a week after it was first given, all-student email access was revoked from the general student body. I am very happy that things are no longer so out of control, but I still think they can be better. Give us a smarter email policy, St. Mary’s!

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