Last weekend, an email was sent out to all F&M students by a small group of students at the College. School officials say this was possible due to an unintended consequence of transferring the F&M email server from Zimbra Webmail to Google Apps.
Two F&M students sent an email to the entire student body regarding lost items on Sunday, Sept. 23. Another email was sent out by a third student which read, “I have all of my possessions,” followed by another from a fourth student that read, “WHO WANTS TO COME TO FORMAL WITH ME.” For over an hour, a number of students replied to the email with a number of jokes and links to YouTube videos, all of which were transmitted campus-wide.
Concerned students alerted college officials, who did not receive the emails, about the situation that was taking place online.
Within less than an hour of learning about the incident, school administrators were able to isolate the email chain as it circulated across campus and they shut it down. According to Jon Enos, associate vice president for information technology and chief information officer, this is the first incident of its kind.
Enos explained the College keeps a list of every student’s email account. School administrators moderate this list to ensure only appropriate messages are sent out to the student body.
“People send a message and it goes through a moderator, who is a staff person, who makes the judgment call: ‘Yes, this is an appropriate message’ or ‘No,’ if it is not,” Enos said.
During the conversion of the College’s email server from Zimbra to Google Apps, however, the new server automatically created a list that included the email of every student, called “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Enos said the College was unaware of this group due to the accidental nature of its creation, and was consequently unable to moderate it.
Furthermore, the group was public for all of its members, meaning any member could send emails to the entire group. Somehow a student discovered the group and used it to send out the email across campus.The group is now disabled.
In response to the email, the College is looking into whether or not participating students violated F&M’s Internet-use policies.
“That’s still something we’re investigating,” Enos said.
The student response to the emails varied.
“I thought it was hilarious,” said Morgan Lehman ’16.
On the other hand, students like Cayla Young ’15 were not as amused.
“I felt that it was childish,” Young said.
Other students took to the web to share their opinion. A post to the F&M Memes Facebook page featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World” took a more humorous tone on the situation: “I don’t always send an email to the entire campus,” it said, “But when I do it’s about panties and Dragonball Z.”
While some students were entertained by the email and others were not, it reflects a rising trend of reckless activity online that Enos thinks students should be cautious of.
“Social media, email, any of these communication avenues we have today—once you hit the send button, you can’t get your message back,” Enos said. “So be careful. Think about if that’s what you really want to communicate or if that’s what you really want to say, because your name will be associated with that.”
Questions? Email Steven at email@example.com.