The University Record, October 21, 1998

Mass e-mails irritating, some illegal

By Jane R. Elgass

A number of unsolicited mass e-mails inappropriately sent to the University community in recent weeks have irritated users and placed an enormous strain on the U-M’s e-mail servers.

Jose-Marie Griffiths, university chief information officer and executive director of the Information Technology Division, said the e-mail primarily originated with students, thus the large aftereffect, although one inadvertently originated in the Office of Student Affairs.

In that instance, a list of lists was compiled and the message sent. In this instance, some angry individuals responded “to all,” asking to be removed from the e-mail group.

The other mass e-mails involved inappropriate use of the University’s information technology resources, as detailed in the Standard Practice Guide. They included such things as scalping football tickets, selling books, renting apartments and giving away free kittens.

Griffiths was joined last week by Provost Nancy Cantor and Maureen Hartford, vice president for student affairs, in issuing a memo to all students, faculty and staff, warning that such activity will not be tolerated.

The most important thing for members of the University community to do, Griffiths says, “is to think carefully about what you are doing” when you consider sending an e-mail message to large numbers of people, and “try not to burden others with unwanted messages.”

The Office of Policy Development and Education is working on a more explicit policy addressing this issue that should be ready in the next month. Griffiths’ staff also is working with the Media Union to create “a social environment in which these messages can be shared,” an electronic bulletin board that individuals could use or not. “E-mail is a valid communication form,” Griffiths notes, “but not when it inconveniences all.”

In their Oct. 15 memo, Cantor, Hartford and Griffiths stated:

“The University will not tolerate illegal activities, such as ticket-scalping, and these activities must be stopped immediately.

“In addition, even though mass e-mail messages are convenient and easy to send, we are asking each member of the University community to respect the privacy and interests of their colleagues and peers.

“E-mail should be carefully scrutinized to ensure the appropriateness of its content before it is sent. Replies should be directed to the sender only---not to all recipients. Most importantly, our e-mail system must be used in accordance with its intended use and in compliance with all University policies and state and federal laws.”

Proper use

The University’s policy, “Proper Use of Information Technology Resources,” can be found in the Standard Practice Guide, Section 601.7 or at

For questions about mass mailings and/or proper use of e-mail, see the User Advocate Web site,, or send e-mail to


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