Officials said the University’s e-mail system is experiencing fewer problems since terminating alumni accounts in June.
GW decided last year to close all alumni accounts June 2 because many filled e-mail boxes on the server made it difficult to recover the system when there was an outage.
Last year’s graduating class will have until this May to use their accounts, current seniors can check e-mail until next May, and future classes will also have a year of “@gwu.edu” address access.
“(Canceling the accounts) helped us significantly by getting rid of millions of bytes of junk mail and spam,” said Ron Bonig, executive director of Information Systems and Services Technology Operations. “This … makes recovery and backup faster.”
All alumni can receive an “@alumni.gwu.edu” address, which forwards all mail to an alternative, non-GW account.
To register for e-mail forwarding, alumni must request a new address, which consists of email@example.com. Users must also give another account to which messages will be forwarded.
Alumni can register at http://www.gwu.edu/~alumni. Harris Internet Services provides the forwarding service to GW, along with other large private universities such as Yale and Syracuse universities and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Almost 5,000 alumni have registered for the e-mail forwarding service, said Jason Miller, director of Alumni Benefits and Services.
Although several students were upset at the University’s decision to cancel e-mail accounts, officials said GW will not look at alternatives to the forwarding service, such as charging alumni to keep e-mail accounts or only deactivating inactive addresses.
“If we had not adopted the forwarding service, then, assuming an addition of 4,000 to 5,000 alumni per year, after several years the total number of alumni e-mail accounts would exceed the number of accounts for current students, faculty and staff combined,” said Kerry Washburn, director of ISS Administrative Applications.
“With recent increases in the volume of spam, inboxes can get very full very quickly. The storage of these unread messages takes up server space, and thus is an added cost to GW,” she added.
Washburn declined to specify cost but said the e-mail system stores an average of 9 million messages per month.
An official from the University of California at Berkeley Alumni Association, who wished to remain anonymous, said the school began using a similar forwarding service about two years ago. Seniors can keep their undergraduate accounts for three to six months after graduation depending on the school from which they graduate.
“I think they’re relatively happy with it,” the official said. “Once you explain to them the benefits of having it, they’re happy with it.”
But many GW seniors said they wished they received notification this year that their e-mail accounts would expire next May because they were unaware of the termination. Students also said they rely on their GW e-mail accounts for work, school and personal correspondence.
“I think the fact that your account will last only a year after graduation should be announced from the day your account is established,” senior Sasha Davila said.
Other students said the change was a reflection of other problems that exist within the University.
“It made it pretty obvious who was considered expendable in terms of providing services for,” said Achal Singh, who graduated from GW in June 2003. “Building a good alumni network should start with offering services that keep alumni close to the University even after they leave. The harder the push we get out the door, the less likely people will be still involved with the GW community when they are in a position to give back.”
Miller said complaints are to be expected but that in the long run the service “more than meets the needs of our alumni population, especially in consideration of the University’s resources.”