Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

Who the heck got Universities into the email business?

My current employer, UQAM, refuses to allow email forwarding. Students would rather forward their emails to their existing GMail accounts, for example. And the IT Department (the SITEL) agrees that it would have several benefits. However, they refuse to allow it for the following reasons:

  • Email forwarding may create infinite email loops. These may disrupt services and require human intervention.
  • Invalid or failing remote servers may saturate the local servers as they are unable to forward the emails.
  • Professors and management send confidential information by email. Yet, without full control of the email service, the University cannot ensure the needed confidentiality.
  • With email forwarding, it may be impossible to ensure and prove that an email was received and read. Thus, homework assignments, administrative inquiries or security advisories may never reach the students, or we may be unable to prove that they reach the students because of email forwarding.
  • As a Canadian University, email forwarding puts us at risk that the emails may transit on American servers, where the Canadian law on privacy is not applicable.
  • Email forwarding may put students at risk if remote accounts are stolen or lost.

Can you help me debunk or mitigate these arguments? I know that some of these arguments are bogus, but I am looking for solid references. (Not that I expect to change their mind.)

A larger issue: shouldn’t universities stick with research and teaching? I understand that we must have networks, cables, computers, firewalls, but do we need to provide our students with email services?

Update: Turns out that our IT people encourage students who want forwarding to GMail (say) to use the POP3 protocol. It is unclear to me how email forwarding can be a dangerous practice whereas POP3 “forwarding” can be safe.