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Background Information:

Email has been an accepted form of communication at the University for several years. It is an effective way to convey information in an efficient and time-sensitive manner to various constituencies. For policy purposes, the use of email at the University at Albany can be categorized two ways: 1) everyday communications; or 2) messages sent to targeted populations. These guidelines demonstrate the requirements which correspond to the increasingly formal policies pertaining to communication conveyed to students in an email format. All members of the UAlbany community are required to use email in a manner consistent with the University's Responsible Use of Information Technology Policy.

Policies pertaining to the use of email do not preclude or limit the day-to-day exchange of information sent via email in the pursuit of legitimate educational goals, particularly between students and faculty. Designating email as an official method of communicating with students provides departments and offices with the option of sending information electronically. Using email for such purposes is at the discretion of the sender and in no way precludes the use of other communication mechanisms.

Everyday Communications:

This category represents the most typical conveyance of information to a specific individual or audience. It includes faculty use of email to communicate with students, as well as correspondence between students, faculty and staff in their routine activities. If email is required for successful completion of a course, faculty are strongly encouraged to state this explicitly in the course syllabus. All everyday communications must comply with the University's Responsible Use of Information Technology Policy.

General Guidelines for Targeted Student Groups:

Because of their ability to reach large groups of students, email messages sent in an official capacity to targeted student groups or all students are subject to a stricter set of guidelines. Email messages should be used judiciously, as students may disregard messages if they receive too many, especially if the information does not pertain to them. Message content should be appropriate for an email format, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Messages must be compliant with the University's Responsible Use of Information Technology Policy.
  • ITS suggests that offices create public distribution groups or listservs for student groups they communicate with regularly
  • Messages should be simple, direct and convey a legitimate educational purpose
  • Official emails to targeted student populations should be limited to those for whom the information is relevant
  • Attachments should be used with care to minimize the risk of passing on viruses or worms. Exercise caution with large files, which have the potential to overfill student mailboxes

Examples of Appropriate Content:

  • Messages must be compliant with the University's Responsible Use of Information Technology Policy.
  • Academic program information
  • Academic department information (changes in course offerings, job openings, events)
  • Advisement appointments
  • Changes to academic policies or services
  • Commencement information
  • Degree clearance information
  • Placement information
  • Registration or billing deadlines

Examples of Inappropriate Content:

  • Any message which violates the University's Responsible Use of Information Technology Policy.
  • Any message requesting the return of secure information via email, such as social security numbers, Albany ID, user ID, passwords, date of birth, credit card information, etc.
  • Information unrelated to official University business or without a legitimate, educational purpose
  • Promotions or solicitations of any kind

Email as an Official Means of Communication with Students:

Messages governed by this policy are directed to specific, targeted student audiences. This policy is intended to provide offices with the option of using email to provide important, generic information to groups of students with whom they may not be in regular contact.

Academic departments are welcome to adopt the Email as an Official Means of Communication with Students policy. However, these units may already have successful communication mechanisms, including email, to convey many informational sources to student populations. This policy is not intended to supplant such communication mechanisms already in place.

Offices choosing to use email as an official means of communicating with student audiences are responsible for maintaining records of all communications sent in that format. They should also be prepared to receive return messages for emails which could not be delivered. If replies are anticipated, they should be prepared to respond and be aware that some students may reply using email.

Approval of senior management is not required to send messages to targeted groups of students. Offices are expected to observe the same propriety used in official communications conveyed in other formats.

Who can use email to communicate official information?

Specifying email as an official means of communication grants academic and administrative departments  the option of using email in addition to the communication mechanisms currently available to them. Offices choosing to exercise this option are responsible for retaining records of official communications delivered in an email format.

For the purposes of official and mass email communications, messages will be sent to students' official University email address as described below. Offices, departments or individuals who have access to preferred email addresses are not required to use official email addresses.

Assignment and redirecting of email accounts:

All students are assigned an email account when they become eligible to enroll for courses. Students should be aware this is their official email account, and that the University will use it as a conveyance of important information. Students may opt to forward their official account to an outside service provider, but are advised they do so at their own risk. The University is only responsible for messages sent to official University email accounts. Students are responsible for checking their email frequently and consistently (on a daily basis) for official correspondence and familiarizing themselves with the content of official messages.

Accessing Official Email Addresses:

Academic and administrative offices seeking student email addresses may login to PeopleSoft and access the Data Warehouse. Queries can be run to obtain students' email addresses. Such queries only retrieve the official University email address, even if a preferred email address has been specified. Additionally, queries only return addresses for those students who have activated their official University email account. Offices relying on contact information from the Data Warehouse are advised that there are no formal mechanisms for obtaining email addresses for students who have not activated their official University email account.

Official policies pertaining to communicating with students via email in no way prevent faculty or departmental offices from using students' preferred email addresses, should they have access to that information.

Privacy:

All faculty and staff should be familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the University's responsibility to protect students' privacy. Offices choosing to utilize email as an official means of communication should use the bcc field or create listservs to protect the identity of recipients.

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Adopted: September 2005
Last Revised: February 2012