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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 FunkyToes@<> 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 anotherrandomemailaddress@<> 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.