A number of you may recall that early this semester mail from Wayne State was blocked by Comcast and AOL. If you tried to send email to someone with a @comcast.com or @aol.com address, the message simply disappeared, or, if you were lucky, was bounced back as undeliverable.
What you may not know is the reason for the block. Apparently some of your colleagues who have their Wayne State email forwarded to Comcast or AOL accounts chose to mark mass mailings sent from Wayne (such as announcements of Convocation, messages from the new President, or even notices of the location of the campus post office) as spam in their Comcast/AOL email clients.
It turns out that if enough people do that, Comcast and AOL (and actually Google and Hotmail/LiveMail as well) will decide that the sender (wayne.edu) is a spammer and block all mail from that domain. And that is apparently what happened, with the result that many important messages from and to faculty, chairs, deans and students were not delivered, often without notice to the sender.
This raises two important questions:
First, why are people forwarding their Wayne email in the first place? Wayne Connect is powerful, fast and identifies you as a Wayne State individual, and you don’t have to give up your favorite email client (Eudora, Thunderbird, Mac Mail, whatever you like). Some universities forbid forwarding, essentially requiring all employees to use the university-provided email system. After all, when you get a message from firstname.lastname@example.org, how do you know who it is? When message arrives from joeblow at wayne.edu, we know for sure that it is either Joe, or, in the worst case, someone who has stolen their identity. But with a free, random account we have no way of knowing who sent the message.
It is currently already university policy that students must use their Wayne accounts to communicate with their teachers and other official people at Wayne, because otherwise we have no way of knowing who they are, and communicating with a stranger about a student would violate federal law. Should we require faculty and staff to do the same? How would your life be impacted if Wayne were to enact such a policy?
Second, I have actually heard Wayne State senior professors tell junior professors to delete any official message from the university without reading it, because they shouldn’t be ‘bothering’ with mere administrative details–they should be doing their work.
Leaving aside the possibility that the ‘official’ message might be one to evacuate the building because of a gas leak, or to lock their office door because there’s an active shooter in the building, there is the question of how best the university should communicate important messages to its employees, including its faculty. If folks won’t use the internal email system, what should Wayne be doing instead?