Someone’s cut the line!

Some former employees feel the college should allow them to keep their e-mail addresses.

Most students probably don’t spend endless hours despairing over this issue. But it’s still here.

Thomas Harrill was a professor of computer science at MCCC. At the Sept. 18 Board of Trustees meeting, Harrill brought the topic up – and not for the first time.

“Most of us were, and are, here for the students,” he said. “If our email is cut off, then students lose the ability to contact us and confer with us on various topics. Giving out our personal email is not a viable option.

“Even though I am retired, that does not mean that I no longer care nor am involved in the educational process.”

As Harrill said at the board meeting, most institutions of higher learning allow their former staff – emeritus or otherwise – to keep their e-mails. Why doesn’t MCCC allow their faculty to keep theirs?

“It might be that a faculty member wants to retire and establish privacy – I feel that ought to be respected,” said David Waggoner, former professor of chemistry.

“That should be a question that should be asked before the faculty retire: ‘Would you like us to make your contact information available?’”

That question isn’t being asked, however. As it currently stands, once a faculty member is gone, so is their email.

“They’ve got to pull their head out of the sand and get with the real world!” said former biology professor Robert Pettit. “That’s just the way it is. And if you don’t want to, then you’re losing your member base.”

Pettit is no stranger to this topic.

“I employed somebody in Canada, for a job associated with Hawkwatch. The email she uses all the time is her former university address,” Pettit said. “She can use it for all her personal stuff, and the institution can get ahold of her when they need to. It’s just a matter of a courtesy.”

Harrill noted that the issue affects students who need letters of recommendation.

“Many – if not most – institutions of higher learning require that letters of recommendation for scholarships and admittance be submitted electronically and must come from an address that has a .edu extension, indicating that they are coming from a legitimate, educational institution,” he said.

Another factor is simply ease of access, as Tim Dillon explained.

“I have had several requests for letters of recommendation from students in the eight months since I’ve retired,” he said. “All of them had to go through some sort of communication gymnastics to first find a faculty member who might know me, second get that faculty member to contact me, and third wait for me to respond, not knowing if I even will.”

To highlight his point, English professor Lori Jo Couch graciously played middleman to facilitate email contact with Dillon.

“While I was teaching at MCCC,” he said, “I had requests for letters from students going back a decade or more as these students returned to school for graduate degrees or career path changes.”

If someone from a decade previous attempted to contact Dillon now, they’d be greeted with an error message like the one below.

The error message initially received by James P. Quick when trying to contact Thomas Harrill.

Should the administration try to go about resolving this issue, what would be the best way to do it?

“I don’t think the college has any responsibility to create any connections between newly-retired faculty and his or her students,” said William McCloskey.

Being a former English and Theatre professor and former Dean of the Humanities Division gives him a unique perspective.

“Having said that, I believe the faculty member’s email account should be kept open for a month or so after the professor has left,” he said, “so that any necessary communication between student and faculty is possible.

“There may be grade issues that need to be clarified that become impossible if the email is immediately removed. A month or so should be ample time.”
However, not everyone agrees.

“This should be accomplished through continued use of the professor’s college email account,” Harrill said.

“I suppose a forwarding service would work,” Dillon said when the idea was brought up. “I think a better idea is to have a list of previous faculty under Emeritus status and/or formerly employed status. The list might further identify previous full-time faculty and adjuncts.”

The thought of an alumni or emeritus server – that is, an address that would read or, for instance – also had some traction.

“I do believe that the Professor Emeritus status should allow former professors to have an email account so they might be contacted by former students and colleagues,” said former English professor Cheryl Johnston.

“I think it is also valuable to keep the retired faculty involved on campus. They possess valuable institutional history and unique perspective on campus developments.”

“I belong to the alumni association of Central Michigan University – they’re always tapping me for money,” said Pettit. “And this is how you do it with your former staff and your former students.”

Pettit went on to highlight that this could be good for advertising things such as La-Z-Boy center concerts.

Waggoner mentioned millages may benefit from an alumni or emeritus server.

“It’s not just people who are currently associated with the college that could be supportive of something like that,” he said. “Former students and faculty could say, ‘That’s something I’d like to support. How can I help?’”

However, these are all just good ideas for now. E-mails are still being deleted upon a faculty member’s departure or retirement.

“I found it rather demeaning and highly irresponsible that my college email was erased as I was leaving the parking lot on my last day,” Dillon said. “I had students at that time who needed to contact me during the next few weeks about that Fall Semester regarding their work, grades, transfer applications, etc.”

A college administrator who declined to be identified simply stated that this is the college’s practice.

Randy Daniels, vice president of Student and Information Services, said he has never been involved in a discussion on the topic.

But the voices of those raising the issue have not fallen on deaf ears.

“There’s a meeting scheduled to discuss the topic,” said Brian Lay, director of Information Systems.

Daniels also confirmed that college president Kojo Quartey has scheduled a meeting on the topic for the week of Oct. 16.