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Goodbye, college eMail account

Submitted by the admin on 13 December, 2008 - 19:30

This my discussion of an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that I posted to the forums of one of my classes at IU-SLIS-Indy.

Boston College has decided that disuse of college eMail accounts has risen to the point that it no longer makes good sense to provide their students with a account. They will have a address that will forward their mail to an account of the student's choice. Whereas some schools such as IU have contracted with Google and/or Microsoft, BC has decided that that just was not worth their trouble.

Now for the problems that may encounter. When I taught at NVCC, we were instructed that we could not discuss private information with students on any eMail account other than their college-sponsored account, which was,, or Among the reasons for that policy:

  • We did not know who had access to that account. FERPA regulations limit to whom student information can be released; some commercial accounts can be read by anyone in the family.
  • Student eMail accounts are always readily identifiable. One of my colleagues received an eMail from or some similar address with no indication who that student was, or even what class the student was taking. I had a student whose eMail address was or something of the sort.
  • There are the reliability issues. discontinued many of their free eMail services a couple of years ago. When died in early 2002, I was unaware of the change due to the way I had been logging in without frames. When the College controls the eMail server, there is if not continuity in service, at least knowledge within the College that service is down.
  • More disciplinary penalties are readily available when College eMail is abused than when off-campus eMail is abused. One of my colleagues (not the same one) received some threatening eMails from the account of a student who had just received a low grade in her course. The penalties that could be imposed were quicker than had it been from the student's aol account.

However, I did not always require my students to use their campus account. I did point out that it was free for them. I mentioned that I could not send private information to other accounts without written (not electronic) permission. But for day-to-day announcements, like the study guide for the test, I would send those to whatever account the student used on an opt-in basis. For the final exams, I had them write the address to which they wanted me to send their results on the final exam itself, with a disclaimer allowing those results to be seen by anyone with access to the account.

The question has to be asked: Is cost more important than privacy? BC picks cost; VCCS chooses privacy. Thousands of preferred customers at the grocery store choose cost, but that's another discussion.