EDITORIALS

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February 21, 2008

Editorial: RE: e-mail

The University’s new website provides an attractive and accessible public face for the school, but it also serves as a reminder that cMail, a key component of the U of C’s web presence, is still in need of change. The University should rethink the way it provides e-mail to students and outsource College e-mail to another provider—a move that would benefit students and remove a drain of University funds.

Slow, clunky, and prone to offering the exasperating “Page Expired” message at the most inopportune moments, cMail pales in comparison to more adept e-mail servers. While NSIT boasted last year that cMail’s storage space per student was increased to one gigabyte, Gmail recently expanded its offerings to over six gigabytes per account.

The current cMail system’s problems have nothing to do with incompetence: The University simply can’t devote the same time and resources to e-mail that companies like Google can. Instead of using tuition money to fund a system that lacks many of the features of its alternatives, the most logical solution to the U of C’s e-mail woes is to ditch cMail altogether and outsource campus e-mail. This change would allow the U of C to save money currently being spent to maintain cMail, and NSIT staff who work on the current system could be reassigned to other tasks.

The U of C would not be the first university to outsource its e-mail. Arizona State, Arkansas State, and Clemson University have all dropped their e-mail systems in favor of Google’s free service, while still allowing students to keep their .edu addresses. Drexel University recently announced that it would allow students to choose between accounts with Drexel, Google, or Microsoft. Not only has the switch led to more reliable e-mail and lower costs (Arizona State predicts it will save $350,000 a year from outsourcing its e-mail), but Google has been receptive to universities’ concerns: For example, the company has disabled embedded e-mail advertisements in student accounts due to privacy considerations.

U of C students are increasingly recognizing that there is a world beyond cMail: Between a quarter and a third of current students have their e-mail forwarded to off-campus accounts, according to NSIT. The University should embrace the logic of this trend and outsource all of its student e-mail. It would save thousands in maintenance and storage costs, while providing students with the best service available.

Now that’s something to e-mail home about.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.