An impending change in Google’s security policy sparked a move by Chicago Booth School of Business this month to end a longstanding policy of providing permanent email accounts to alumni. Now a backlash to the proposed elimination of the “Email4Life” accounts has the Booth School changing course — but some alumni are still unhappy with the school’s new plan.
After backtracking on a plan to close thousands of email accounts in April — accounts that the Booth School says only 6% of alumni actually use — the school currently ranked No. 1 in the United States by U.S. News & World Report says it has found a solution that addresses security concerns while also providing email accounts for the legions of graduates from its full-time, part-time, and executive MBA programs.
“Based on community feedback,” the school writes in a post dated January 25, “we have found a solution that allows us to continue offering alumni email, while also being responsive to Google’s security policy change. Starting February 1, 2024, we will begin transitioning to a new subdomain and an alumni.chicagobooth.edu email address will be added to your account. The new alumni.chicagobooth.edu addresses align with both the Google security policy change and Booth’s internal email infrastructure.”
PETITIONERS COLLECTED MORE THAN 4,000 SIGNATURES
The problem began with Google. Starting in February 2024, Gmail, Google’s widely used email service, will require that senders who send 5,000 or more messages a day to Gmail accounts authenticate outgoing email, avoid sending unwanted or unsolicited email, and make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe.
In response, the Booth School wrote in an unsigned letter posted at its website that the new sender verification policy “will impact the efficacy of forwarded email accounts. Google’s new policy will also have a significant impact on Booth’s overall email infrastructure and will require the school to change the alumni email subdomain from @chicagobooth.edu to @email.chicagobooth.edu on February 1, 2024, as part of the transition to shutdown on April 5, 2024.”
Boothies weren’t happy, saying the email address change posed a significant threat to the institution’s prestige and alumni connections essential to graduates’ — especially recent graduates’ — professional networking. The policy shift, they said, could impact alumni engagement and potentially affect donations. In a January 19 LinkedIn post titled “Alumni Unite to Uphold Our Legacy: Advocate for Email4Life and Chicago Booth’s Commitment,” alumnus Chenlin Zhao wrote that the decision “significantly diminishes our ability to stay connected and communicate, impacting the bond we share with an institution that has profoundly influenced our professional and personal journeys.
“Like many of our peers,” Zhao wrote, “we placed immense trust in this commitment and migrated all our personal and professional communications to our Booth email, believing it to be a permanent and reliable point of contact. The decision to discontinue the service undermines the trust and reliance we placed in our beloved university.” In response, Zhao added, he and a group of alumni from Booth’s Executive, Full-Time, and Part-Time MBA programs have launched the petition, with a goal to “prompt the Booth administration to reassess this decision.” The petition was signed by more than 4,000 alumni before being delivered to the school January 24.
SCHOOL PROMISES ‘ADDITIONAL ENHANCEMENTS IN THE COMING WEEKS’
The school responded quickly. In its post dated January 25, it offers the solution of new accounts and gives alumni detailed instructions on how to preserve and migrate their data and contacts. It also set a new date for the change. “The alumni.chicagobooth.edu email address will replace your current Booth address as of March 1, 2024,” the school writes. “Please prepare for the shift by notifying your contacts and updating organizations that your address will be changing to either your @alumni.chicagobooth.edu address or an alternate email address.”
Some Booth alumni are still unhappy, asking why it took Booth so long to respond to Google’s policy change when that change was announced last year. While acknowledging that the school’s new plan allows alumni to maintain connection with their alma mater, they say the connection will be weaker, and the hurdles in establishing new accounts will cause attrition in usage and contacts. Among the biggest drawbacks most frequently cited in discussions shared with Poets&Quants: the lack of a forwarding feature, which means an inevitable loss of contacts and the need to laboriously reestablish them.
Boothies aren’t just grumbling — they have proposed solutions, as well. Some alumni suggest the Booth School should explore more innovative solutions, taking advantage of its extensive network of well-connected graduates to possibly leverage new partnerships. They further advise the school should not be over-reliant on outsourcing and should address a lack of in-house expertise. And they advocate a more collaborative approach, including a joint effort in finding a solution involving alumni for all the schools facing this issue.
They may receive a hearing: The Booth School has also promised that it will be “rolling out additional enhancements in the coming weeks.”
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