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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
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Published June 23, 2024

UMN developing proposal to retire lifelong emails

The University of Minnesota is working on a proposal that aims to discontinue University emails for graduates and retired faculty and staff.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

The University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology (OIT) is currently developing a proposal to retire University email accounts for alumni and retired faculty and staff.

This proposal would discontinue University sanctioned Gmail accounts for all graduated students and faculty members who no longer work at the University, except for professors emeriti and alumni involved in University fundraising and communications.

Talks of this proposal started at the OIT in 2019. The University has cited multiple reasons for the proposal, including cost savings and information security.

“The discussion about whether and how the University will offer access to UMN email accounts after retirement or graduation has only been a proposal and is still underway,” Nathan Kufner, the senior director of identity and access management in OIT, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “Because of the drastic changes to the email landscape over the past 20 years, the University must pursue this change with appropriate consideration of the risks, costs and benefits.”

When the University began to provide students with lifetime email accounts, there were fewer security concerns and unlimited storage space for little to no cost, according to the OIT.

Google announced in 2021 that the company would no longer be providing free, unlimited storage and will start charging $150,000 for every petabyte over a pre-imposed limit by 2025.

If the University does not cut down on storage by this time peg, it will cost the institution $1.5 million annually, according to the OIT.

Alumni and retirees make up about one-fourth of the data stores in the University’s Google Workspace.

The University is collecting multiple forms of input, including consultation with the Alumni Association, the University of Minnesota Foundation, colleges, departments and student representatives, according to Kufner.

The in-process proposal will phase out emails in stages, starting with students graduating this spring. There will be a three-month transition window for graduates to move their information to different accounts.

Alumni and students express concerns

After finding out about the University’s proposal development, former University of Minnesota-Duluth student David Herrera Santacruz started a petition on to urge the University to reconsider the email retirement.

The petition has garnered more than 6,600 signatures since the beginning of February.

“My goal was to create awareness, a grassroots initiative to point out the flaws in this process,” Herrera Santacruz said. “We cannot move forward without community input.”

Herrera Santacruz noticed the proposal on the University’s information technology business management portal, Atlas, last month and wanted to bring it to the University community’s attention. He said he believes there needs to be more community input in the proposal development process.

Fourth-year student Alyssa Bixler signed the petition because she has multiple external accounts linked to her University email and is concerned about what will happen to them if emails are retired.

“We’ve been using it [University email] for all four years in college, and it has a professional association with it,” Bixler said.

Owen Stephenson, a third-year student, said he thinks there should be increased transparency in the process and more direct updates to students.

“You make a lot of connections, and the University places a lot of emphasis on that part of your experience. A lot of the interface for most of that connection for me has been via email,” Stephenson said. “I take pride in being here and being a part of the University of Minnesota, so I was looking forward to having that stamp that I carry with me.”

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