Alumni, retirees are last in Gmail switch

Former students and employees often keep their University email addresses.

by Jeff Hargarten

As the University of Minnesota prepares to discontinue its old email system in favor of Gmail, the schoolâÄôs alumni and retirees are still waiting for an upgrade.

Former students and employees can retain their email addresses after leaving the University and keep access to the network and internal websites indefinitely by simply logging in every six months.

For the past few years, the University Office of Information Technology  has worked to discontinue the schoolâÄôs GopherMail, switching all users to the Google system. The office is set on completing the process by December, said Bernard Gulachek, a senior director at OIT.

But alumni and retirees will likely be sticking with GopherMail until after everyone else is already transitioned.

âÄúWeâÄôll see where we are at the end of the year,âÄù Gulachek said.

About 64,000 current students have been switched to Gmail, out of about 69,200 across all University campuses.

Gulachek said OIT is focusing on current students and staff, and doesnâÄôt dedicate the same resources to the alumni and retiree accounts.

Most of the University of Minnesota Retirees AssociationâÄôs 500 members have retained their University emails. The number of alumni still using their accounts is a fluid number, Gulachek said, because students are graduating constantly.

Right now, OIT hopes to move University alumni and retirees to a separate Google domain by the middle of next year. According to the schoolâÄôs contract with Google, the new accounts will display ads, unlike accounts created for the current students, Gulachek said.

In the past, some departments automatically arranged for retirees to retain their email accounts, while others had to specifically request it. But since April 2000, the UniversityâÄôs policy toward retirees granted them the same email and library services as current faculty, said Calvin Kendall, president of UMRA and a retired English professor.

âÄúHaving a [University] email address retained upon retirement adds to a feeling of remaining integrated with the University community,âÄù said Ron Anderson, president-elect of UMRA and a retired sociology professor.

Three of UMRAâÄôs original members, who joined in 1978, use University email addresses, âÄúeven though they are undoubtedly getting on in years,âÄù Anderson said.

Having a University email is âÄúindispensableâÄù to running the UMRA, conducting research and maintaining personal relationships, he said.

âÄúIt may even be more indispensable to us than it is to students, because we tend to be less likely to use Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging,âÄù he said.

Some alumni and retirees already have Gmail because they left the University recently, but most are still using GopherMail .

Richard Streu graduated from the University with a medical degree in 1960, but obtained a University email decades later, despite not being affiliated with the school outside of being an alumni. OIT manually switched him to Gmail because he was experiencing computer issues.

âÄúI was very comfortable with GopherMail and could use it easily,âÄù he said.