Guest Op-Ed: Email Policy Change Continues to Generate Campus Confusion

For the past four weeks, as a student leader, I have been approached daily by students, staff, and faculty who have voiced their displeasure about the new email policy change and utilization of the Moravian App.

A few weeks ago my friend John Desmond wrote an article about the email changes, but the problem persists. At the USG meeting on Jan. 30, following the announcement of the policy change, John and I presented findings from a survey that polled 200 members of the campus community and found that over 30% do not have the Moravian app, 91.7% use email more frequently, and 86.3% prefer email.

A five-page packet containing all of the results was provided to every member of the governing body, along with the faculty and staff in attendance. Every USG member had the opportunity to comment and ask questions. Through that dialogue, potential steps and solutions were discussed. The agreement was that there should be more transparency — students should be more informed and educated about this transition moving forward.

This article is the culmination of what has occurred and come to our attention since that USG meeting.

An email sent by President Bryon Grigsby to the campus on Jan. 25 acknowledged some concerns regarding the Moravian app and provided the name of an individual who could offer training on the app for student organizations. I had the chance to speak with this person, Colleen Marsh, about the app, and she was very informative and helpful. However, I believe that all end users of the app (students, faculty, and staff) should have access to such training, whether they are in an organization or not, to afford them the opportunity to use this app proficiently and to achieve maximum benefit from it.

In addition, the campus community is confused by the use of umbrella email accounts to distribute information. This policy change was not articulated to the student body.

I learned quickly that it is not only students who are displeased, but that many members of the faculty are also up in arms about the new email policy. A number of faculty members have told me they are afraid to speak out and do not want their name or email connected to anything for fear of retaliation. Those who are less fearful have approached me, questioning the email situation and updating me with information they have discovered.

A few faculty members have told me that the topic of the app has come up at every department meeting this semester and that there has been “healthy discussion” on the matter with Provost Cynthia Kosso. To date, the president has not stepped in to amend the policy.

Many faculty members enjoy attending and supporting events that various organizations and clubs host. Yet, without using the app, they are unable to stay up to date and attend events happening on campus. They feel disenfranchised because not only are they less aware of events, but they cannot even directly send out emails for clubs they advise.

Not only are fewer faculty going to events, but there also appears to be fewer students. An individual who is close to those who organized Philanthropy Week came up to John and me while we were eating dinner. She sat at our table to tell us no email was sent out for the Week and that there was little interest in it as a result.

In addition, sources close to the Moravian Activities Council (MAC) tell us that participation at their events this semester has dwindled. This is particularly concerning as MAC hosts free, fun, and sober events which they welcome all students to participate in. As treasurer of the Political Awareness Coalition (PAC), I have personally seen a sharp decline in attendance at our weekly meetings and events.

Clubs and organizations are integral to student life and to our experience here on campus, and recently it is has been very difficult for students to get involved and for clubs and organizations to garner interest. Students have told us they feel they are in the dark about events.

Many are also saying that the ubiquitous notifications from the app have caused them to disregard the notifications and that they get more notifications via app than they used to get via email, which is another reason information is not reaching them.

One anonymous comment provided on our survey regarding the email changes sums up the negative assessment of the Moravian app.

“The app is almost too accessible to students. There are many times where students message unimportant or irrelevant messages on the app, therefore the notifications we receive are often ignored.”

Personally, I concur. I do not need a notification that someone is selling their roommate for ten dollars or best offer. Students were never able to send out campus-wide emails, but now every little thing they post in the app can reach everyone.

Another source of frustration is that adherence to and/or interpretation of the policy has been noticeably inconsistent. Under the umbrella accounts, separate emails have been sent out for individual organization’s fundraisers, movie nights, and events, yet separate emails are not being sent out for Philanthropy Week, the Career and Civic Engagement Center, or MAC events.

With the weekly events email referred to in President Grigsby’s email this should not be the case. All events should be advertised in that weekly email in order to mitigate the number of emails received (a reason stated in the President’s email for this transition).

Where is the line drawn between what warrants an individual email and what does not? Has that been considered? Is the administration not following its own policy? We are not the only ones asking these questions, but we are the only ones publicly airing them.

More than a month ago at a USG meeting, we asked that the campus community be more informed and educated in order to quell confusion and gain some understanding concerning this matter. Since then we have heard no new information and have seen no new action. Was our request a little too revolutionary?