The latest news release sent out across the GW Infomail system on Friday afternoon has called into focus the abuse and lack of standardization that borders on leaving this vital service meaningless. As this page has stated before, the Infomail service has an important role for our city campus but must be used prudently. In light of the current uses and abuses of the system, the University should be willing to examine alternative setups to ensure students and other GW community members receive the information that is vital for them.
On Friday, the University sent out a news release (twice, in fact) regarding the school’s scheduling conflicts that ultimately made it impossible for the Street Corner Foundation to host a charity basketball game on campus. The release addressed comments made by Big Tigger, a DJ from WPGC 95.5 FM who reportedly insinuated that GW is a racist institution due to the conflict concerning the tournament. Though the contents of the University’s datebook are important for some, namely administrators, such items have little bearing on most students’ lives.
After the University sent another Infomail late in February reminding students that the system is not used for services like passing along class delays or closing due to inclement weather, the abuse of the system seems to be spiraling far from its intended purpose.
The University must show that it takes this system seriously and applies it to situations of utmost concern to students. Sending an arbitrary press release to tens of thousands GW community members does not serve their interests. The exorbitant use of the system for increasingly unnecessary notifications has conditioned many students to blatantly ignore potentially important e-mails.
If the University does plan to continue using the Infomail service to advertise sporting events or to rectify its public image, it should offer methods of personalization much like Alert D.C. does. The citywide notification service allows subscribers to select the types of alerts they would like to receive.
Those interested in receiving all of the alerts would be able to continue to do so. Others more interested only in weather and safety issues, for example, could choose to limit their interactions to those specific areas. Such a set-up would require both time and money, but has the potential to improve a vital service that is approaching a status of inconsequential.
The University should also examine the current set of standards, or lack thereof, required to send an Infomail blast e-mail. According to the existing GW Infomail policy, the only regulations in place include having a University vice president approve the message and formatting guidelines. Perhaps now would be an opportune time to consider further policies governing content, not just the construct of these e-mails.
With such an excess of information at hand, it becomes crucial to filter the information students’ inboxes are subject to. If this issue is not comprehensively and thoroughly addressed by administrators soon, it will continue to create an attitude of apathy in response.