January 11, 2005

University-wide, College-wide e-mails bombard inboxes

One University-wide and two College-wide e-mails arrived in student inboxes at the beginning of the quarter discussing different events and ideas related to the numerous events commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Week.

The e-mails, along with the large display in the Regenstein Library, and the posters and banners across campus, have some students wondering who decides which e-mails get to them in the first place.

College-wide and University-wide e-mails are discussed and cleared in different ways. Vice President of the University and Dean of Students Steve Klass said that University-wide e-mails—such as the one announcing Martin Luther King Jr. Week—in general are only rarely sent.

"In my experience, sending one is a very rare occurrence, as it should be," he said. "The only other one this year of which I'm aware was the University's Diversity Statement from the President and the Provost."

Before Klass and other administrators send a mass e-mail, "we discuss it internally among my senior staff and then, if we believe that we should recommend sending it, we'll have the conversation with other senior administrators as appropriate and then, of course, with senior NSIT administrators, notably Greg Jackson," Klass said.

NSIT oversees the process of sending University-wide e-mails. Klass said that sending these e-mails takes a large amount of technical and human resources.

In addition to the general e-mail that came from President Don Randel and Provost Richard Saller, students received one from Rockefeller Chapel about Dr. Rockerick W. Pugh's "What Matters to Me and Why" talk, as well as one about a student-alumni mixer. Both of these events are listed as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Week.

College-wide e-mails are composed in a website called the College Virtual Mailroom, where they are reviewed by College IT staff before getting approval to be sent out. These messages must adhere to a list of policies; for example, they can only be from faculty or staff, they must be of reasonable length, and they cannot contain commercial announcements.

Valerie Archambeau, who works in the College IT office, said that the staff is just now beginning to improve the College Virtual Mailroom. "A review of the policies will undoubtedly occur during this process," she said.

Lorraine Brochu, the assistant to the Dean dealing with external affairs of Rockefeller Chapel, normally sends College-wide e-mails announcing the speakers of the Rockefeller-sponsored "What Matters to Me and Why" events.

Third-year in the College Sonia Wang was listed as the sender of the e-mail about the student-alumni mixer, which is on Thursday, January 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Alumni House. Wang said that the committee suggested that she send the e-mail instead of a staff member, because it would extend a more personal invitation to the event.

Wang did not think that the three separate e-mails were excessive. "As a planning committee, the many members who are helping with MLK week made sure not to bombard inboxes with too many events. That is why only three campus-wide e-mails were sent whereas there are eight events occurring throughout the week," Wang said.

However, some students question the effectiveness of all of the electronic marketing on top of the posters on campus and the huge screen in the Regenstein Library. Fourth-year in the College Anne Ciechanowski said that she just deletes the e-mails. Third-year in the College Allison Kean agreed that the messages were more of an annoyance than an incentive to attend the events.