Emory Report

October 26, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 9

New e-mail lists enable Emory to reach campus groups quicker

In order to provide the University with a method of distributing information via e-mail quickly and efficiently to various campus groups--as well as the entire Emory population--several departments have worked together to develop a number of segmented e-mail lists.

The new e-mail lists will serve a variety of functions beyond priority notification of campus crime as required by the Campus Security Act. The lists are broken down by school and by constituency; for example, there is a list of only law school staff, while another lists just public health students, and so on.

Every list has two moderators who decide which messages are important enough to merit "pushing out" to the list's constituency. University Secretary Gary Hauk and Jan Gleason, assistant vice president for communications, moderate the all-campus list.

"I don't see using that list more than a dozen times a year," Gleason said of the all-Emory list. Such information would have to meet three criteria, she said: its scope would have to be wide enough to affect nearly everyone or a large group of people; it could mean the disruption of essential services, such as closing the library; and it would have to be essential information that everyone needs to know.

Other announcements of interest to the entire Emory community should be sent to Today at Emory <today@ emory.edu>, Gleason said, to be posted on its web site and also distributed through its subscriber-based listserv. But some other segmented lists have much narrower constituencies and could be used to transmit news items such as event announcements or important registration information, for example. The moderators of each list are establishing critieria for their use.

"This list serves as an avenue where we can contact faculty with important information they need in a timely fashion," said Provost Rebecca Chopp, whose office manages the all-faculty list. "We need to protect it so it doesn't become a daily activity, so when faculty receive a message they know it's important and that they need to react to it."

The segmented lists were conceived by administrators in the provost's office, Campus Life, Human Resources and Public Affairs. Alan Dobkin, ITD operating systems analyst and the chief technician of the project, said the most difficult aspect of setting up the lists was settling on the right groups and securing preferred e-mail addresses.

"We considered things like various web pages or areas on web sites for announcements, news groups, and finally surveyed other schools to see what they had done," Dobkin said. "It basically came down to the fact that people who were sending out these announcements really wanted them to be pushed into people's mailboxes. It allows for basically anybody to post what they want to post, and then moderators have the option of whether or not they feel it's worthy enough to push out to everyone's mailboxes."

Like a subscription-based listserv, people could theoretically "unsubscribe" from the new segmented lists, but Gleason said the lists refresh themselves every night, so anyone who unsubscribes will be resubscribed within a day. All the moderators have been trained, and the lists are up and functioning although some work remains in identifying the preferred e-mail addresses.

Right now e-mail lists are only meant to supplement other forms of distribution, Gleason added, but clearly the trend for moving information is toward electronic means. "It's possible ITD could create endless lists," she said. "You could slice and dice this thing all the way to [a list] like 'students from Georgia born in 1981 with GPAs of 3.5 and higher.' But this is what ITD is prepared to put together and support at this time; we'll run it for six months and see what happens."

A letter has been sent to vice presidents, deans and directors detailing all the lists and their moderators. Anyone wishing to submit a message for consideration for any of the segmented lists should simply send e-mail to the appropriate address.

--Michael Terrazas

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