Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Google to Run Yale E-mail, But Unanswered Questions Remain


The Horde e-mail server will soon be replaced by a new Google interface, custom-designed for Yale.

Information Technology Services administrators plan to join with Google Apps for Education to bring students, faculty and employees the Gmail e-mail service by the end of this month, said an undergraduate member of the Student Technology Collaborative who asked to remain anonymous because of ITS policy. The service, tentatively called “Bulldogs,” will also offer users a suite of tools for communication and collaboration — including Google Calendar, Google Talk and Google Docs. The new interface will look like the standard Gmail layout, but without advertisements, the student said.

The Gmail-based service will gradually replace the University’s current e-mail client, Horde, the student said. The incoming class of 2014 will be the first to go directly to the new Google system, and current freshmen and sophomores will have to make the switch. Upperclassmen will have the option of keeping Horde, but the University plans to phase out Horde by spring of next year, the student said.



We rely on e-mail for almost everything. It is a means for organizing events, raising awareness, communicating official announcements and has become a constant presence in every member of the Yale community’s life. As such, radical changes to this system, such as the recently reported potential switch to a system hosted by Google, deserve full debate. Though the Gmail-based system may confer many advantages, it does not excuse the opacity that has characterized the transition process so far. The level of frustration with Yale’s current e-mail service is undeniably high — many students long for something better, and Gmail is one possibility. The substantial fraction of undergraduates who currently forward their Yale e-mail to a Gmail account will likely welcome a transition to Gmail. But even if many students will welcome Gmail, such a dramatic change should only happen as part of a transparent process with open dialogue including all stakeholders.

The current picture of the proposed transition leaves many crucial questions unanswered.


Only a transparent process will let students know. That is why we call on the administration to establish an open dialogue before ITS commits to a timeline for outsourcing the e-mail of current and future students. Even if it is a forgone conclusion that Yale will make the switch, there is no compelling reason to draw the curtains and shut out the concerns of the people that will use the system every day. E-mail is simply too important for secrecy. With Lux et Veritas as its motto, Yale should understand the value of shedding light on the change.

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