Alumni of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism are incensed over the school's decision to discontinue a widely used group email list and replace it with a new social network the university has created.
A message sent to the email list at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday from Belinda Clarke, director of communications and alumni relations at Medill, told the former students that the list will be gone on May 30.
"As I explained briefly in the newsletters that went out last week, the Northwestern Alumni Association has spent the last several years building a new online community for Northwestern alumni, students, faculty and staff called OurNorthwestern," Clarke wrote. "It’s now live, and each of you has a pre-loaded profile page in it."
Pushback came within the hour, with many alumni arguing that the university is trying to fix what isn't broken. So many emails went out to the group list that it reached its daily limit of 100 emails by 4:30 that afternoon, preventing anyone else from chiming in on the news. The email thread, which an alumnus forwarded to The Huffington Post, was wholly free of any support for the change.
"I don't need ANOTHER website to visit, ANOTHER social media profile to manage," one graduate wrote. "It just ain't gonna happen."
Currently, all Medill graduates are placed into the distribution email network by the university. Many of them use it to find jobs and apartments, solicit advice from fellow alumni and keep in touch with one another.
Clarke elaborated to the group list that the school's quarterly newsletters, events, ticketing and emails will soon be managed by the new OurNorthwestern site.
"The system has a few glitches, but over all, this is a good thing," Clarke wrote.
Not everyone thinks so. One graduate sent a sarcastic email blast after trying to use OurNorthwestern, saying: "Awesome. So utility. Much easy. Wowe."
Many alumni insisted they would not bother to get involved with yet another social network, especially since they already use email so frequently.
"Despite the obvious flaws of email, it will for all intents and purposes continue to [be] my PRIMARY way of connecting," one alumna wrote. "Not Facebook messages, not LinkedIn groups, not even OurNorthwestern posts."
Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations at Northwestern and himself a Medill alum, told HuffPost that school administrators realize it's "a bit of a change," but are "confident that our alums will be able to adapt."
"We understand that the listserv is popular with a number of Medill alums and serves as a good tool for a variety of purposes," Cubbage said. "But we also think the new Northwestern alumni site, OurNorthwestern, will meet those needs, as well as provide other info to alums on events, clubs, access to the alumni directory and other services."
Cubbage wouldn't disclose whether OurNorthwestern or the old email list is cheaper for the university, but he said that "cost wasn't a key factor -- it's just a matter of trying to provide a good hub for all alumni communications."
Medill grads, for their part, are already trying to find an alternative way to stay connected via email. One set up a Google Group and reported back to the other alumni that 30 people had signed up within 15 minutes.