Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New email system draws mixed opinions

By Eleanor Harte

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After weeks of email reminders and tips, the University of Massachusetts officially transitioned its undergraduate email system from UMail to Google Mail in July, a system already used by many for their personal emails. The change included a shorter email address for undergraduate students, with a domain of umass.edu as opposed to the previous student.umass.edu.

According to the UMass Office of Information Technologies in a May 1 press release, the change to Google Mail is part of a bigger initiative called Apps at UMass Amherst, “Google’s suite of collaborative tools for educational institutions.” Undergraduate students now access their email slightly differently than before, but in return they can utilize tools created by Google to work with other students, such as Google Calendar, Google Sites, an online website-creation, and Google Drive, an online file storage facility where users can upload documents that can then be accessed anywhere their Google account can be accessed.

UMass switched to the Google Mail and Apps system mainly because of storage issues, according to Christopher Misra, associate chief information officer for security at OIT.
“Limited storage was one of the most frequent complaints about UMail,” Misra said. “If we had kept our old UMail system, it would have required a major upgrade which would have been expensive and time-consuming.”

Google provides over 10 gigabytes of email storage to students.
Many students have praised UMass and OIT for changing the email, despite initial concerns that the switch would be complicated.

“I’m very happy with the change,” said Liz Muenzen, a junior psychology major. “UMail was ugly and very inconvenient. I like that I can add the school’s Gmail onto my regular Gmail account.”

“I like that it’s readily available, meaning the emails come instantly, where with UMail there was a lag,” said Richard Pho, a junior biology major.

“I like that it’s umass.edu instead of student.umass.edu,” said Danielle Enos, a junior psychology major. “It’s shorter and easier to write out.”

“The only thing that annoys me is the name switch, because I keep forgetting when I type it in, but it’s otherwise fine,” agreed Marta Azzollini, a senior psychology major. “I think it looks a lot better.”

Not everyone is happy with the change, however.
“Gmail is so much harder to use,” said Korie Thurlow, a junior English major. “For the first few weeks I felt like none of my emails went through. UMail was really easy to use, and even though Gmail looks better, I don’t care about fancy. I just want to be able to send my emails.”

“It’s frustrating to use the mail application on the iPhone and Mac because it doesn’t let me send emails, so I had to download the Gmail app so I could send emails,” Pho said.

Despite the challenges, Misra is confident that the transition is a good one.

“As with any large-scale transition, there have been some challenges making sure all students are aware of the change in their email,” he said. “We spent much effort trying to communicate actively with students to ensure a successful transition.”

Overall, Misra believes that the “partnership with Google benefits our students and the university.”

In addition to undergraduates moving over to Google Mail and Apps, OIT is also assisting faculty, staff, graduate students and retired personnel in a transition to Microsoft Exchange in a further effort to completely phase out UMail in 2014. Faculty, staff and graduate students may elect to keep their current domain name, assigned through their respective departments, or may choose to use the umass.edu domain.

The entire campus has access to the Google Apps suite through the new system but only undergraduates have access to Google Mail.

Eleanor Harte can be reached at [email protected]

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