University of Guelph

Mass E-mail Policy

Authorization: Chief Information Officer
Established: November 2003
Revised: June 2015

To receive this document in an alternative accessible format, please contact the CCS help desk ext 58888 or 58888help@uoguelph.ca.

Context

Many units and student organizations wish to communicate with specific groups through email. These messages could be directed to a variety of predefined groups (e.g. the entire community, faculty or staff, undergraduates, first-year students or alumni). At the same time, email saturation is a growing concern of recipients. As per Senate policy, email is the official method of communication. As such, it is important that that messages sent from the University are read. It is also important that the University implement processes that reduce the possibility of overwhelming recipients with various messages from numerous groups.

Scope

This policy recognizes several different categories of mass email. Each category has different attributes, and different policies apply.

The policies and processes outlined in this document attempt to strike a balance between the need to conduct University business through mass email and the desire to use email to communicate a wide range of information, with the impact of receiving unwanted and unrequested email messages. The policy has been developed in the interest of fairness as well as respect for personal time and University resources. The policy reflects the Senate policy which states that email is the University’s official method of communication with students.

This policy does not apply to individual email-based distribution and discussion groups that students have opted into or for which they can opt out. Given the need to restrict access to mass email, individuals should consider other forms of electronic communication that may meet their needs. A list of options is attached in Appendix 1. In addition, the University community must adhere to the Google Apps for Education High Volume Policies when emailing undergraduate students, as referenced in Appendix 3.

Definition of Mass Email

For the purposes of this policy, a mass email shall be considered to be any unsolicited email in which the message is sent to the entire University community or a predefined group, where the receiver does not have an opportunity to unsubscribe.

Categories of Mass Email

This policy recognizes several different categories of correspondence that the mass email system facilitates as well as the different policies that apply.

1. Official University Email

Official messages may come from the University administration or its representatives, to be sent to the entire community or to a predefined group, and to alert the community of substantial changes to governance, policy, practice or major university campus community event. Normally a request of this nature will occur when other means of communication (i.e. AtGuelph, Web,) will not suffice.

Official messages from the University administration must be approved by the vice president or associate vice president, or equivalent, associated with the message as well as the Assistant Vice- President, Communication and Public Affairs (AVP, C&PA), or designate.

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. This will be just one method of communication used in an emergency. Normally, after the first email is sent, the community will be referred to an emergency website for updates.

Emergency emails must receive approval from the appropriate vice president. Normally C&PA will be responsible for sending emergency emails.

3. Informational Email

Various university units or student organizations may request to send a mass email to a predefined group. 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 must adhere to the guidelines for distribution of mass email as outlined in this policy. Normally, emails of this nature will be allowed no more than four times per semester per unit or organization.

Certain departments have the authority to send important user information to students or members of the community using their services if it is related to the core business of the University. These departments include:

  • Office of Registrarial Services
  • Student Affairs (SA)
  • Computing and Communications Services (CCS)
  • Human Resources
  • Faculty and Academic Staff Relations
  • Graduate Program Services
  • Office of Research For other units, the following approval processes will be followed:
  1. Requests by academic and non-academic departments to send mass email must be approved by the department chair/manager of the department, as well as the C&PA AVP. Approved departments will be provided with only one populated distribution list per year which will include an opt-out option. The use of the distribution list will be held to the same limitations as outlined above, with no more than 4 emails of this nature per semester. Approved departments are also expected to follow the guidelines in Appendix 2.
  2. Requests by official student organizations, clubs and associations must be approved by the executive of the individual constituency as well as the SA AVP. Primary Student Organizations will be given a populated High Volume distribution email list by the Office of Student Affairs after the Add period in the fall semester. This populated list provides an opportunity for recipients to unsubscribe. These student organizations are expected to follow the guidelines in Appendix 2.
  3. Once the mass email is approved, the C&PA AVP, or the SA AVP, will forward the request to CCS for distribution via the UG mass mail tool, and/or creation of a listserv if this is deemed more appropriate for the purpose of the email.
  4. Normally requests of this nature will be allowed no more than four times per semester.

4. Surveys

Mass email may be used for institutional surveys that are required by external bodies (eg. NSSE). In addition, emails may be allowed to support departments wishing to undertake user surveys to assess program quality and/or effectiveness (eg. Employment Equity, CCS Email Usage Survey).

Normally, mass email may not be used to survey members of the community for research purposes. Survey requests must be approved by the vice president or associate vice president, or equivalent, associated with the message as well as the Assistant Vice-President (Institutional Research and Planning and Registrar), who will specify an allowable time period for the distribution of the survey, if approved. The Office of Registrarial Services will provide a populated distribution list for the appropriate constituency, if needed, and the Department will send the survey during the time period specified and discard the list after the intended purpose for which it was provided.

Appendix 1: Alternative Forms of Email

There are a number of alternative electronic options that units/groups may use to connect with their community. They are listed below in no order of priority.

1. Listserv: A listserv can be configured to be used as follows:

  • as an announcement tool whereby only a designated person (moderator) can post to the list
  • as a discussion based tool where people can both post to the list and receive messages from the list
  • a subscriber can post to the list but not receive

Information on listservs can be found at: https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/listserv-mailing-lists

2. Standard Email

  • Many departments and groups maintain their own high volume lists and send messages using regular email capabilities
  • Email within D2L is also possible for course specific information. 3. RSS
  • Syndicated news feeds
  • The user has to subscribe to receive information
  • It can be viewed in many ways : Gryph Mail, news aggregator, websites
  • This provides one input, many places to repurpose information
  • Integrates with blogs and websites

Appendix 2: Guidelines for Mass E-mails

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. The guidelines are also consistent with the High Volume Policies for Google Apps for Education, attached as Appendix 3.

Using best judgment and following these guidelines will help ensure that the mass email system can be used effectively and to its capacity.

1. The information conveyed should contain significant news value

Announcements of regularly scheduled meetings and activities do not 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. Departments or student organizations wishing to promote upcoming events should not use mass email for this purpose. Rather, other forms of communication should be considered: such as Facebook, Twitter, the UofG Events Calendar or D2L

2. 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
  9. Phishing

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. The sender of the message will be responsible for defining the distribution list as accurately as possible and may work with 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 a listserv.

4. Format

  1. The message must indicate that it is a mass email and identify the department sending the message. Contact information should be included at the end of the message to allow for verification of the legitimacy of the message in case the recipient has questions or any concerns about phishing. 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 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.
  3. The inclusion of attachments in broadcast messages is not allowed.
  4. The message should be in plain text and be AODA compliant.
  5. A test message will be sent to a small subgroup to check for accuracy and formatting errors prior to it being mailed out.
  6. Except in emergencies, normally three working days notice is required for any such mailing and normally the message will be sent at low usage times (i.e., evening or weekends) so as not to compromise normal email delivery.

Appendix 3: High Volume Policies for Google Apps

All University of Guelph undergraduate, diploma and certificate students will receive Google Apps for Education e-mail accounts (Gryph Gmail). U of G policy remains the same with respect to mass e-mail, however, we must also adhere to Google’s mass e-mail rules and policies. Mass e-mail to all undergrad, diploma and certificate students and all Listserv lists that include undergrad, diploma and certificate email addresses (identified as username@mail.uoguelph.ca) will be affected.

As a Google customer, U of G has means to help ensure delivery success. This includes using the “Sender Policy Framework (SPF)” which declares authorized IP addresses (IPs) through a Google provided “whitelisting” mechanism. Whitelisting of IPs informs Google that mail originating from the configured IPs is legitimate and should pass unfettered to all recipients. Both of these mechanisms can ensure email originating from authorized University agents will be delivered to recipients. Unfortunately, violations or negative reports can lead to overriding of any whitelisting configured.

Google deploys a number of spam mitigation and rate limiting mechanisms which affect how much e- mail is delivered to student accounts:

User Spam Identification: Google gives users an opportunity to identify SPAM themselves by simply assigning it the SPAM label. When enough users (Google does not advertise how many) identify a mail item as SPAM or a sending site as a source of unwanted email, the site is blocked and mail from that site is rejected. Having email blocked from authorized University servers can have a significant business impact.

Blocked Websites: Google counts the number of bad email addresses (unknown or deleted accounts ) a site attempts to send mail to and uses these numbers to judge whether a site is a good network citizen or one that is not managed properly or has been compromised. The consequence of a negative decision results in a sending site being blocked. Mailing lists must be managed and cleaned on a regular basis to avoid university accounts being blocked.

Send/Receive Limits: Google imposes sending and receiving limits on accounts within the Google Apps for Education framework. Violations of mass mail policy or overzealous mailings can impact the students’ use of their account. Accounts exceeding Google imposed limits have email sending and receiving privileges suspended for 24 hours.

CCS, as a general practice, will whitelist the IPs associated with the University High Volume and Mass Mail applications, our Listserv service and all authorized email servers. We will also update our SPF DNS records to include these services as an additional safety mechanism. Unfortunately, CCS cannot whitelist mail servers we are not aware of including mail servers used within a University department which may be used to send out legitimate mail. Departments that send out high volumes of mail to students should register the IPs of the servers with CCS so they can be added to the configuration.

Senders should also make themselves aware of Gmail email receiving limits.

Google provides Bulk Mail Guidelines to increase the likelihood of successful delivery of email to Gryph Gmail accounts and some troubleshooting hints.

Helpful Links

Bulk Mail Guidelines
Bulk Mail Troubleshooting
Gmail receive limits
Message bounced due to Bulk Sender

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