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What’s the Deal with HC-All Emails and Havertivity?: How On-Campus Communication is Confused

Since The Clerk last wrote about how students get their news on campus, the GO! 3.0 all campus forum portal has closed, a third party application developer contracted by the Student Engagement office has created Havertivity, a smartphone-only application that acts as a space for students “to share information about clubs, to compile student events, and to make communication among students easier through the app’s campus message board,” and the Weekly Consensus is now defunct, only sent to certain students who “opt-in” to receiving the weekly summary emails.

But what about hc-all emails? Last week, when The Clerk attempted to send out an hc-all students email containing a survey pertaining to an article about surveys, its email was never sent out– with no specific notification about why it had been rejected. This narrative is not uncommon: an interested club or party seeks to advertise an opportunity or event and sends an email to hc-all students in the hopes that a mysterious force in the technological void will guide the email to approval– hopefully delivering the message to all students in a relatively timely fashion.

When The Clerk reached out to Students’ Council Co-President Ian Andolsek, it was directed to SC’s mass email policy, which was ratified in 2010.  The policy stipulates that:

“emails to or individual class lists is reserved for Safety and Security, the Office of the President, the Dean’s Office, the Provost, the Registrar, Health Services, and Network / Blackboard related announcements. Students’ Council, Honor Council and JSAAPP may also send mass email announcements as needed.”

This policy reinforces the need for clubs to disperse information on a platform like Havertivity, but it also neglects the reality: that Havertivity has evolved to function as much more than the tightly-controlled Weekly Consensus email had been.The application is currently only available to students with access to smartphones, and has itself been a site of consternation and abbreviated discourse, with students posting about the “censorship of student voices [on the part of] the administration,” joke posts, and numerous memes. This pattern means that more serious posts about events and student news could be buried among the memes.

Said Zach Alden ’17, “Sadly, Havertivity’s feed has been flooded by spam from a handful of users who refuse to use their real names, hiding behind the anonymity of handles like “heck wheatus and corn,” “Puddle Of Mudd Vevo,” “liz ard-person,” and  “Guillermo (official)” To me, it’s embarrassing and disrespectful to see memes appear alongside important announcements from faculty members like One Card administrator John Castrege and other student leaders.”

As an example, several emails sent to hc-all students before Monday, March 27 were delayed in their receipt– with some arriving up to three days late.  An email sent by the HC Women*s Center on March 24 was approved by the Students’ Council Co-Secretaries on Monday the 27th at 11AM, over three days after its initial sending. Similarly, two emails from FAB were approved several hours after their initial sending time. While this might not pose a problem for emails sent weeks before an event, this tardiness would adversely affect events that have a limited sign-up period or a first-come, first-served policy, like FAB’s, for example.

Perhaps more importantly, these examples violate the terms of the mass email policy. While FAB and the Women*s Center are not the only two organizations to have their emails approved by the co-secretaries, they are two examples of a rash of exceptions made from the delineated policy. If there is not a place for the press in this policy, and regular exceptions to the rule are made for FAB and others, we ought to ask the question: what qualifies these organizations to receive hc-all student approval? Where is the line drawn in regards to which organizations are approved and others aren’t?

When asked about what’s next for all-student emails, Students’ Council First-Year Representative Leslie Luequño ‘20 noted that Students’ Council is working on reviewing and amending the mass email policy.

“We realize [the current policy] is not taking into account the new changes in communication on campus,” Luequño said. “I realize the frustration that is coming from this policy [is probably due to its recent] strict enforcement only a month before the school year ends.”

When further pushed about what prompted SC to double down on its email policy, Luequño said that the enforcement is a result of “the administration asking Students’ Council to uphold the email policy in response to a specific club’s multiple emails for one of their events.” While Luequño understands the administration’s concern she said that she believes “the student body has not been properly informed of the changes in how hc-all emails are sent and, that this is the root of the frustration.” Obviously, students don’t want to be bombarded with an onslaught of emails, but it’s clear that our campus needs a new (or maybe an older) platform for all-campus communication.  

At the time of publication, HC Co-Secretaries clarified the terms under which The Clerk’s original email was rejected. The Secretaries noted the presence of  “other means to post events (by parties not approved to send e-mail through hc- all or hc- (class years)),” including Havertivity. As such, the Haverford Co-secretaries & Co-Presidents said, “the administration has requested the reinforcement of the mass e-mail policy”

They also acknowledged a shortcoming of the current mass email policy, and touched briefly on what seems to amount to a temporary “approval by association” process that is the rule prior to official mass email policy changes.

We also understand that individual offices (such as CCPA, OMA, etc.) do not have permission to send through hc-all email. However, to aid the transition from allowing anyone to send through hc-all into reinforcing the mass e-mail policy, we have severely limited the use of hc-all e-mail to only allow the recipients mentioned in the document as well as offices or events that are associated with these offices. FAB works directly with Michael Elias and is part of the SAO; the Womxn’s center is an office in itself. In the near future, a mass e-mail will be sent out to remind the Haverford community the guidelines surrounding the mass email policy (at which point the mass e-mail policy will be in full effect).”

An outstanding uncertainty remains: FAB, while perhaps “associated” with Mike Elias and thus the SAO, is not officially an office listed in the mass email policy that the Co-Secretaries and Co-Presidents cite above. Neither is the Womxn*s Center, despite that it is an “office” unto itself.

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