Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services

ITS Mass Email Communication Policy: Rationale and Examples

Policy Rationale

This policy has been developed to address potential technical problems as well as to respond to a number of complaints ITS has received over the past few years. In particular, faculty, staff and students have sent a clear message to ITS and that message is, please stop the unsolicited mass email on campus.

The unsolicited mass email advertising of University events such as lectures, workshops, surveys, etc., are unwanted and regarded as spam or junk mail by the vast majority of recipients. This is because senders of mass email on campus use the same procedures that spammers historically used -- that is, they input hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of email addresses into their email client with no consideration of the relevance of the message to the recipients, i.e., many retired faculty and staff, who are entitled to retain their email addresses at Queen's, do NOT wish to receive career day event notices! Email has become very much like your personal telephone at home. Just as some people resent and get angry when someone calls to sell them a new carpet cleaner or new long distance service, email advertising is viewed as a similar intrusion and is unwanted in the workplace unless it is relevant to the recipients role or function at Queen's University. Complicating this issue is the amount of spam from outside the University that is sent to faculty, staff and students advertising everything from get rich quick schemes on the Internet to offensive pornographic web sites. Taken together, the sheer amount of unsolicited email advertising runs the risk of making the medium an ineffective tool for conducting day to day business.

Please note that the procedures outlined for campus wide communication are not new procedures. The policy document pulls together in one place the available options for communicating with large segments of the campus. The following questions and answers highlight the appropriate procedures and existing services for campus wide communication and clarify some of the technical problems associated with mass email on campus.

Example Questions and Answers

  • My dog had six puppies. Can I send a notice to all faculty and staff asking if anyone would like to buy one?

While University resources should be used for University business, it would not be appropriate to mass email thousands of people when only a few would be interested and when only a few are available. This is a spamming technique -- of sending unsolicited email to thousands of mailboxes to sell a few items, or to only reach a few potentially interested individuals. More appropriate methods exist, such as putting a classified ad in campus newspapers, or in the Whig Standard newspaper, on your personal or department web page, or taking a notice with your email address and phone number to your Vet clinic!

  • Can I send email to all faculty and staff announcing an upcoming conference that Queen's is hosting?

A more appropriate method for advertising a conference that not everyone would be interested in is to arrange for a notice to be posted in the Queen's Event Calendar.  Certainly, it would be appropriate for you to advertise it on your departmental and personal web pages as well as in other campus newsletters. As as faculty or staff member at Queen's, you can also create a mailing list for conference attendees who wish to be kept informed by requesting a subscription from a link on your department web page, or on a conference web site.

  • Our department is offering a workshop tonight. Can we send a mass mailing to the campus as time is critical?

First, it would not be appropriate to send mass mail to the campus for a workshop that only a few people might be interested in attending. Second, there is no guarantee that those who might be interested will read their mail in the next few hours. More importantly, it will take several hours for mail to be distributed to the campus in order to avoid the interruption of regular mail services and to prevent the systems on campus from being overloaded. We would therefore encourage better planning of workshops so they could be advertised to the campus through the use of campus newspapers, bulletin boards and via the web.

  • I am a faculty member going on sabbatical and I need to rent my house. Can you assist me in sending a notice to all graduate students?

First of all the use of Queen's mass mailing resources to rent your house is not appropriate and many students would not appreciate the advertising. More appropriate methods already exist such as putting a classified ad in the Kingston Whig Standard, Journal to reach students, or using the Queen's Accommodation Listing Service. Also, if your faculty or department has a bulletin board or web page where announcements of interest to graduate students are posted, you might consider putting it there. Other options include "word of mouth" and asking other faculty members to make an announcement to their students during class.

The sending of unsolicited mass email on campus has always been a violation of the Queen's Computer Code of Ethics. With the sheer amount of spam bypassing the Queen's filters due to new and improved spamming techniques, this policy must be enforced in order for the University to conduct day to day business via email.