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A letter from the provost

To the campus community:

A large number of U-M faculty, staff and students were sent an e-mail message on Sept. 25 and 26 under the heading “invitation to upcoming divestment conference.” Information Technology Central Services (ITCS) has conducted an investigation to determine the origin of that message, consistent with University policies and with the support of the U-M Department of Public Safety. They also received assistance from other campus information technology security experts.

By examining detailed computer records, the investigators have been able to determine that the message was not sent from any U-M e-mail accounts, including those of the student and student organization named in the message. The information that we have developed indicates that the message originated in California.

It is important to recognize that when e-mail is sent from one point on the Internet to another, it can follow a complex path as it travels through multiple mail servers. In this case, the senders used an unsecure server known as an “open relay” in order to help hide their identity. Despite the best efforts of the investigating team, it is possible we may not be able to determine who really sent the messages.

The investigators have determined that the senders of the messages were not given campus e-mail addresses by any official University source. Rather, they hand-entered hundreds of faculty, staff and student e-mail addresses from sources readily available over the Web, such as departmental Web pages or the University’s online directory. It is unknown precisely how many faculty, staff and students received the message.


Paul Courant, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs

To view the provost’s message from Sept. 26, go to

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