Here’s a thought experiment to add to your weekly Wendy woes: what would happen if the college email system crashed? How many students would miss their club meetings? How many abandoned boxes of Lemon Thai would there be at empty events? How many untouched packages at Mail Services? How many lost items still lost?
While we can debate the outcomes of such a purported catastrophe, one truth is clear: few will miss the amount of spam that inundates our Wellesley Gmail accounts. Undoubtedly, email is an incredibly useful tool at Wellesley. We can also do all sorts of things — unsubscribe, digest and filter — to render it more efficient. Regardless, it seems nowadays that just like small talk and dining etiquette, “email etiquette” is important to our social, academic and professional lives.
Communication can make or break one’s career, and many times, a promotion depends on oft-neglected “soft skills” like verbal and written competence or a sense of professional propriety. In order to prepare Wellesley students for the professional world, we should launch a discourse concerning ways to efficiently read, organize and respond to emails.
One troubling issue with our email system is the “reply-all” conundrum. Consider a recent case in which the human resources department at Time Inc. accidentally selected “reply all” in response to an employee’s personal question about his salary. In a matter of seconds, the entire company became privy to the issue at hand, triggering an avalanche of panicked, confused and bemused responses.
Although some employees found amusement in the ordeal (responding with remarks such as “This is the most exciting thing that has happened all week” to “Anyone wanna buy Girl Scout cookies?,”) Many had trouble refreshing their email and preventing more unnecessary emails from crowding their inboxes. At Wellesley, the “reply all” fiasco has yet to occur, but many of us will remember receiving an extraneous email that made us cringe or roll our eyes.
Understandably, many are not aware of the difference between “Reply” and “Reply All,” or may not even know that a difference exists. When a student selects “Reply All” they are usually responding to a campus-wide email regarding student employment or opportunities; perhaps in their haste to secure a rare opportunity, students accidentally email the entire College their resume, phone number, or other private details.
Campus-wide emails that require a response should include a bold note at the top that politely requests students not to “reply all.” In case of necessary damage control, inform students, whether through freshman orientation or other venues, that the Gmail “Unsend” feature can easily reverse the damage altogether. For future information, click the gear at the top right and select “Settings.” From there, you can “Unable Send” and choose the time of cancellation — make sure to save the changes at the bottom.
Another issue within the Wellesley email system concerns spam. Although email spam is an excellent way to inform students of campus events, we need a bit more formality regarding the timing and number of spam emails. For example, open invitations to weekly or monthly meetings, such as fitness nights and other learning experiences, should not invade our inboxes at every opportunity. Wellesley College provides us excellent opportunities to gain new experiences and meet new people through the Keohane Sports Center, but we do not need frequent reminders as to what we are missing. It is not uncommon for Wellesley students to receive multiple emails from instructors on open fitness nights, sometimes even five minutes prior to the actual event.
By such late notice, most students already have prior engagements or plans, making the emails unnecessary and redundant. Perhaps more students would benefit from a fitness schedule emailed biweekly, a timely compilation of yoga, Zumba, kick-boxing and spinning in one document instead of multiple one-line reminders every other day.
A more difficult conundrum is the question of lost and found items. Previously, many students have proposed and created a Google document specifically for lost and found items. Students have even created a Wellesley Facebook lost-and-found group in which students who have found or lost items can notify others. However, a separate venue for lost and found items necessitates a bit of traffic from users, which cannot be guaranteed in our busy lives. After all, who would check the Google Doc like they check their emails? More importantly, how long will it take to implement the practice?
The advantage of the mass email, regardless of its intrusive nature, is that it is the quickest means of locating and retrieving lost items. Not everyone has a Facebook or Twitter, but all students more or less check their Wellesley email for notifications from their professors or club organizers. The best way to compromise and serve the best interests of all parties? Mark each “lost item” email with the appropriate heading in the subject line, so students have the option of filtering out such emails.
Nobody likes refreshing their browser to see a white block of unread emails, and nobody likes wasting even a few minutes of their day perusing an email that does not concern or affect them in any way. Community living requires easy and efficient communication, with necessary knowledge on how to inform, respond and write in a succinct and organized manner. A trivial trouble it may be, especially amidst our harried lives, but a clearer and cleaner email system would mean a clearer and cleaner mind and hopefully a less cluttered student environment.