“I get a lot of Phi Theta Kappa stuff, which is the honor society for the junior colleges…why is Phi Theta Kappa and other organizations, abusing the email system, with unnecessary crap,” says Will Evans, Salt Lake Community College Biology major.
Evans was able to track back to the time and place he allowed Phi Theta Kappa to obtain his Salt Lake Community College email address. However, several students, including Evans, claim that they receive email from other colleges that they have never contacted or expressed interest in.
SLCC students receive e-mails integral to the community college and may include important academic deadlines, admission & financial aid information, campus events, and other information.
With a student body so large and diverse, how does the administration determine what kind of email is relevant to students? Alison McFarlane, SLCC Director of Institutional Marketing and Communication, describes an example situation to us; “[Let’s say] Financial Aid wants to send an e-mail. Pull all those names [that fit the needs of financial aid, and] send an e-mail blast.”
Many marketers use email blasting. While these mailings are often discarded as spam, the technique can be effective for reaching large groups of people. The message is delivered all at once; it is consistent, and everyone does not have to be in the same room at the same time. Anyone who has sent out a ‘mass-text’ message knows of the advantages of this technique.
Evans describes receiving odd email from Tulane University, “I have never even inquired about information from Tulane”. Evans claims that even if he had, he wouldn’t have given them his SLCC e-mail address. “I think they are a good school … but I have never wanted to go there.”
Sarah Thorup, SLCC English major, receives emails from Westminster College because her “profile fits with students who are very successful at Westminster College” (Westminster College e-mail disclaimer statement). Sarah claims she has never given out her SLCC e-mail address to Westminster, but somehow still receives email from them. “If they didn’t ask [before sharing my e-mail], I’d be a little upset,” says Thorup.
The overall feeling shared by SLCC students we talked to about spam is evident in the statement from April Mack, 21, Communication major. “I don’t want any junk,” says Mack.
Every student e-mail address is owned by SLCC, even though the address has been created and assigned under a student’s name. “Once they have been accepted as a student, their MyPage e-mail account is automatically generated,” says Bill Zoumadakis, SLCC Director of the Office of Information Technology.
According to the FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act), certain student information is readily available to individuals, agencies or organizations. Information can be “released upon request unless the student specifically withholds permission to do so,” (FERPA). This includes; student’s name, date of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, enrollment status, degrees and awards received, most recent previous educational agencies & institutions, participation in activities/sports and email address. Patricia Sanchez, Assistant Registrar, says, “SLCC does not give out student names, addresses or telephone numbers, even though FERPA allows it”. FERPA can be accessed at http://www.slcc.edu/enrollmentservices/misc/FERPA.asp.
SLCC’s Office of Information Technology and Institutional Marketing works with other departments to help determine which e-mail blasts students should receive. “Some students are getting lots of e-mail from different departments, some might be getting only a little bit, just depending on their level of activity and connection with the college,” says McFarlane, “Our desire is for [SLCC] email to be the primary account for students to receive college information.”
Students have the option to forward their SLCC email to another email address of their choice. This can allow students to consolidate to just one email account but depending upon spam and junk filters, a student may never see many of the emails. “We believe it is true that a lot of students aren’t accessing SLCC e-mail, but are forwarding to G-mail, Yahoo…which then gets caught in a filter and it never reaches the student,” McFarlane says.
Marketing’s main goal “is how best to communicate with students. So really the communication through email is just an attempt. We don’t want to bombard them with information but there is a lot of information we want to get to students. We’re trying to find the best methods.”
When asked if there are specific ways of profiling or targeting a student by major, age or any other category, McFarlane says, “We have so much information in Banner [the program used by SLCC for these operations, departments can just] ask for a report from IT, listing all the General Ed majors and we can pull a report.”
When asked how Westminster would obtain SLCC e-mail addresses, the SLCC Office of Information Technology’s response was, “There is no global address book. You’re going to have to give it to them or e-mail them. There is no way for them to go to our site and find you on the MyPage and just e-mail you.”
Karla Farley of Westminster College admissions says, “I don’t know where they [SLCC student emails] come from, I just send them.”
It is unclear exactly what is happening with information sharing at SLCC and the surrounding community. In the electronic data cloud of digitally stored and transmitted information that is present in most aspects of our lives, there are risks.
“I don’t think any of that information should be shared unless [a student has] decided that they need to have access to it,” says Evans.
If a student wants to prevent directory information from being disclosed, they need to complete a Request to Withhold Information Form in Enrollment Services. Salt Lake Community College, Enrollment Services, PO BOX 30808, Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0808, 801-957-4298.