The University Record, April 17, 1995

E-mail postmasters recognized for their service

Sixty-three electronic mail postmasters have received certificates of merit and thanks for their service and commitment to the University in completing a series of training sessions offered over the past 18 months. They were honored by Douglas E. Van Houweling, vice provost for information technology, and Joseph L. Gelinas Jr., former U-M postmaster general.

Postmasters for the electronic mail environment are responsible for assuring that e-mail is delivered to the correct address. The postmaster must forward incorrectly addressed mail to the correct e-mail location or alert the sender that the e-mail has been incorrectly addressed.

However, says Laura Bollettino, U-M postmaster general, "the job is constantly changing. Much of the e-mail tracking is now automated. Postmasters must constantly be aware of new technology so that they are better able to diagnose problems."

Postmasters also are responsible for informing e-mail users about the standards expected for usage. For instance, e-mail chain letters are a constant problem for postmasters since they clutter an already busy system. "We encourage people to follow standards," explains Bollettino. "Many people are not aware of the policies associated with e-mail. When policies are broken, we step in and work with the users so they understand the reasons behind the guidelines."

Postmasters must avoid reading message content to the greatest degree possible, and must keep confidential the content of any message that was inadvertently read in the course of redirecting undeliverable mail.

The University offers training sessions to postmasters to acquaint them with their duties and the ethics involved with the position. The four-part "Introduction to U-M Postmastering" includes an overview of the e-mail environment; a seminar on maintaining a secure and respectful e-mail community; overall technical instruction and ways to handle error messages, rejections, and problems; and a wrap-up session to answer questions and point to additional resources. With completion of this specialized training, postmasters are better able to foster responsible use in the e-mail environment and deal with problems and concerns as they arise.

In the University's distributed computing environment, postmasters felt a need to unify efforts to do their jobs more effectively. They are forming an association to link postmasters who have taken the training. Communicating directly through an e-mail group, postmasters can better maintain professional standards and share information, thus improving customer relations and service. This commitment to better mail service and more ethical postmastering is highly valued by the University.

The four sessions of "Introduction to U-M Postmastering" will be offered June 9, 12, 14 and 16. If you are a postmaster and have not yet taken advantage of the training, contact ITD Workshop Registration, 3001 School of Education Building 763-3700, or itd.workshops@umich.edu.