Proposed UW email domain change creates backlash from students

Over 4,200 supporters have added their names to the petition &ldquo;Let UWaterloo undergraduate students keep their emails&rdquo; that was created by current University of Waterloo student Midori Armstrong.&nbsp;</p>

UW’s Information Systems & Technology (IST) is currently working on migrating students from the current email to a cloud-based system, Microsoft Office 365 Education. In doing so, IST will be changing both undergraduate students’ and alumni’s email domains to provide distinction from staff faculty and graduate student email accounts. Once the switch to the new system has been made, students will be given an approximate 18-month grace period where emails will be forwarded from addresses to their new accounts. This information, along with how to provide suggestions for a new domain name, was posted on Reddit by UW  IST March 22. 

In an email interview with Imprint, Armstrong explained that she decided to start the petition “as a way to put a more concrete number on just how many [students] disagree with this decision, and to spread awareness about this issue,” since she did not believe that UW’s Reddit post was sufficient enough to do so.

Armstrong believes that students should be able to keep their current email domains for the viability that it provides them. 

“It’s a professional email I can give to my employers for networking purposes,” she said. “The university affiliation is important as well — making undergraduates have a different domain is designating us as lower-tier. Not to mention, a lot of undergraduates at Waterloo are in the co-op program, and keeping the same email in university and beyond is important for finding work.”

Armstrong thinks undergraduate students will face more repercussions with the address change. 

“It will likely … affect our access to services such as Amazon Student and many other online services based on an address. Not allowing us to indefinitely receive emails at our address defeats the purpose of us using it at all unless we do not care if the recipient has our contact information.” 

Many students who responded were concerned with the 18 month grace period, deeming it too short to allow sufficient transition to a new address.

IST posted on UW’s Daily Bulletin, March 24, recognizing student concerns with the proposed 18-month grace period: 

“IST has flexibility in setting the length of the grace period. … After considering … [the students’] … suggestions regarding the proposed timeline, reviewing our project plan, and consulting with service staff, we intend to extend [it],” IST wrote. 

IST’s amendments to their plan includes allowing all current undergraduate students to have emails forwarded from their address to their new accounts for the rest of their time as an undergraduate student, as well as one year after the last day of academic term registered. For the time being, alumni will keep their addresses. 

IST also commented on students’ concerns with the change from the domain. 

“The use of a subdomain (e.g. will maintain the university affiliation while allowing us to address the technical, security, and performance concerns that exist.”

“It’s certainly a step up from their original statement,” Armstrong said. “However, this is a clear downgrade from what alumni currently have… Why should we be forced to downgrade, when tuition prices are rising year by year? At the very least, we should be able to forward emails sent to our address to an address of our choosing forever.”


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