As the Associated Student Government introduces a bill to allow graduates to use their Texas State e-mail, I can’t help but wonder if they did their homework on this one. The bill will do exactly what the administration does not want: it will create more work and strain the schools’ already drained budget.
Arguments for the e-mail access extension have the usual whiney tone of a jealous child crying “but UT is doing it.” So why haven’t we considered seeking a better solution for the university rather than attempting to copy the giant to our north and fight an uphill battle against the interest of the university administration?should look for a better e-mail system for students that would solve problems with the current system while still allowing for continued access to the university e-mail for graduates. Expanding their scope to a search of how universities across North America are improving their e-mail networks would show a surprising number of universities are looking to Google to improve campus e-mail.
By utilizing Google’s powerful and user-friendly Google Apps Education suite the university could provide students and faculty a better e-mail and calendar system for the very low price of free. That’s right — Google provides this package free to universities and with more bells and whistles than the current Microsoft system. Along with the attractive price, students would receive increased server space to reduce the annoying “your mailbox is almost full” messages that plagues those of us who are subject to the constant barrage of TRACS messages. Using the Google platform, the university could retain its @txstate.edu e-mail address and accounts could be retained post-graduation, satisfying ASG’s goal of building a long-term relationship between students and the university.
In the search for a better e-mail system on campus, Clemson University in South Carolina found Google to be the best option. ZDNet reported Steven Lareau, the IT chair for Clemson's student advisory council, said they “found 25 percent of the students were already forwarding their e-mails to Gmail, which was more reliable, offered more storage, and had better accessibility than what existed.” Lareau said students found Google offered more of what was important to them: an easy-to-use system, loaded with storage, and with supporting web-based apps such as Google Calendar. With all of these perks it seems like a simple decision to make the switch, but would Google’s information-hungry business model raise security issues?
I don’t think any of us would be happy with Google mining our school e-mail accounts for information and pushing ads on us while we are trying to send a quick e-mail or submit an assignment to our professors. The University of Alberta voiced similar concerns and found a solid solution. In their contract Google is legally barred from mining student accounts and advertising on university accounts. According to the Edmonton Journal, the University of Alberta is currently using the Google platform and estimates a $2 million savings on top of providing their students and staff a better e-mail system.
ASG could easily write a bill asking Texas State to search for a better e-mail system such as the Google platform, solving several problems at once and ultimately leaving the university better off. Simply trying to force the hand of administration to extend e-mail access is a temporary fix with no sustainable gain to the university or the students. Using Google platform would solve just about every issue that has been raised about e-mail accounts, and did I mention it was FREE?
—David Fink is a management senior