University of Guelph

Mass Electronic Mail Policy University of Guelph

November 21/03

The University has seen a significant increase in the use of mass email to distribute news, information, and announcements to various constituencies.  The departments of Communications and Public Affairs (C&PA) and Computing and Communications Services (CCS) have seen increasing requests for campus-wide distribution of email messages (mass email) to a variety of predefined groups (e.g. the entire community, all faculty, all undergraduates, all first-year students).  Coinciding with this is an increase in complaints to our postmaster about unsolicited email messages – primarily SPAM. 

In order to address these issues, the Information Services Committee struck an e-communications working group (see membership page seven) to clarify and define campus needs for electronic communications/notification, examine best practices at other institutions, and recommend policies and processes for the effective use of mass email at the University of Guelph.

The policies and processes outlined in this document attempt to strike a balance between the speed and ease of use (for the sender) of mass email, the desire to reduce reliance on paper mail, where appropriate, and the impact on each member of the community receiving unwanted and unrequested email messages daily.  The policy has been developed in the interest of fairness as well as respect for personal time and University resources.  The policy reflects the University's decision to use email as the official method of communication with its students.  This policy does not apply to the creation and configuration of email-based distribution and discussions groups (also referred to as listservs).  Examples of this would be student clubs creating distribution lists for communication with club or association members subscribing to a listserv or faculty members who create lists for electronic communication with students in their courses.  This policy does apply, however, to requests for distribution of a mass email intended to create an electronic distribution list.  For more information regarding listservs, please go to: http://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/email/lists/

Definition of Mass Email

For the purposes of this policy, mass email shall be considered to be any unsolicited electronic mailing in which the message is sent to members of the University community using the CCS database of email addresses.  This policy does not apply to individual email-based distribution and discussion groups such as listservs or established data bases that serve University learners/clientele.

Categories of Mass Email

This policy recognizes several different categories of mass email.  Each category has different attributes, and different policies apply. It should be noted that the development of the Campus Community Portal may require that the policies and procedures outlined in this document be reviewed and changed as appropriate.

1. Official Messages from the University Administration

Official messages may come from the University administration or its representatives, to be sent to the entire community or to subgroups, and to alert the community to substantial changes in governance, policy, or practice.  Normally a request of this nature will occur when other means of communication (i.e. @Guelph, Web, FAX) will not suffice.

Approval: Official messages from the University administration must be approved by the vice president or associate vice president associated with the message as well as the director of C&PA.

Process: Upon approval, the director of C&PA will contact CCS in order to authorize dissemination of the mass email.

2. Emergency Email

In urgent or extraordinary circumstances, it may be necessary to send an emergency email to all members of the University community or to a specific constituency.  Such circumstances might include an immediate threat to health and safety, property or research.

Approval: Individuals wishing to send an emergency email must receive approval from the appropriate vice president as well as the director of C&PA.

Process: Upon approval, the director of C&PA will contact CCS in order to authorize dissemination of the mass email.

3. Informational Messages to the University Community

Various U of G offices or organizations may request to send a mass email to a specific constituency on-campus.  These organizations include student clubs, campus groups or associations, and departments.  The email may be intended for one, several, or all constituencies on campus and must be pertinent to the shared interests of the particular community or communities receiving the message and adhere to the guidelines for distribution of mass email.  Normally requests of this nature will be allowed no more than once per semester.

Approval:  Depending on the request, the following approval processes will be followed:

  1. Requests by academic and non-academic departments must be approved by the department chair/manager and the dean/director of the department as well as the director of C&PA.
  2. Requests by official student organizations, clubs and associations must be approved by executive of the individual constituency as well as the associate vice president of student affairs.   Student organizations, clubs and associations wishing to create an electronic distribution list (listserv) may do so by requesting the distribution of a mass email to its constituency offering members the opportunity to subscribe.

Process:  Once the email is approved, the director of C&PA, or the associate vice president of student affairs, will forward the request to CCS for distribution. 

Guidelines

These guidelines are intended to assure that this means of communication remains reliable, and to support the community consensus that unnecessary electronic mail is unwelcome.  Using best judgment and following these guidelines will help ensure that the email system and network can be used effectively and to their capacity.

1. The message must be in regard to University business and material in the email must conform to the University's Acceptable Use Policy.

Acceptable messages would not include:

  1. Personal messages
  2. Items for sale
  3. Jokes
  4. Chain letters
  5. Pyramid schemes or make money fast schemes
  6. Unsolicited commercial email
  7. Information of interest to only a small segment of the University community
  8. Political issues

2.  The information conveyed should contain significant news value

Announcements of regularly scheduled meetings and activities do not generally warrant University-wide distribution via email.  News that impacts a large number of people and will have significant impact on the University community may be appropriate for mass distribution. 

3.  Messages must be targeted   

The distribution list must be refined in order to ensure the message is delivered only to those for whom it is relevant.  Possible distribution groups include all members and subsets of the following groups: faculty; staff;  undergraduate and graduate students. The sender of the message will be responsible for defining the distribution list as accurately as possible and will work with staff in CCS in this regard.  

Avoid automatically sending to everyone on the University network and plan ahead in order to limit requests for mass email distribution.   It is recommended that those organizations wishing to contact their membership on a regular basis do so by creating an electronic distribution list (listserv). 

4. Format

  1. The message must include contact information for the receiver.  This may be in the “Reply-to:” header or field within the email message itself.  The contact information may be an individual, group, or file address where replies will be received and responded to as appropriate.  This need not be the sender.
  2. The initial text of the message should indicate that it is a broadcast message and which area is sending the message.  For example: “This is an informational broadcast message from Student Affairs”.
  3. Messages should be clear and concise – no more than one page. Additional information may be made available via a link in the text of the email.
  4. The inclusion of attachments in broadcast messages is not allowed because of the possibility of spreading a virus and possible incompatibility with a recipient's system.
  5. The message should be in plain text as some mail readers cannot handle special characters, fonts or html.
  6. The message should have a web link to the Mass Electronic Mail Policy at the University of Guelph.
  7. Except in emergencies, five (5) working days notice is required for any such mailing.  In any case, several hours may be required to set up such a mailing, and the message is sent in batches over another several hours so as not to compromise normal email delivery.

It should be noted that administrative communications in email carry the same legal requirements as do communications on paper.  As requirements vary for different academic and business processes, individual administrators, offices and academic units must be responsible for understanding what these requirements are and how they relate to activities in which they are involved.

Mass Email Distribution Chart

Category Approval Groups
Messages from Administration Appropriate VP & Director, C&PA All members of community to subgroups
Emergency Email VP Admin & Director, C&PA All members of community to subgroups
Informational Messages from groups, associations and departments Appropriate Executive, Manager, or Dean/Director and Associate Vice President (Student Affairs) or Director, C&PA All members of community to subgroups

Working Group Members

  • Doug Blain, CCS
  • Gerrit Bos (resource), CCS
  • Sanjay Chakraburtty, CSA
  • Chuck Cunningham (chair), C&PA
  • Derek Husser (resource), CSA
  • Linda Mckenzie-Cordick, CPES
  • Kian Merrikh, OOL
  • Rob Michitsch, GSA
  • Blair Nonnecke, CIS
  • Brian Pettigrew, ORS
  • Stuart Robertson, C&PA
  • Helen Salmon, Library
  • Quentin Sinclair, CSA
  • Altaf Virani, Facilities and Hospitality Services
  • Glenn White, Financial Services
  • Brenda Whiteside, AVP (Student Affairs)
University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1
Canada
519-824-4120