Setting up an administrative mailing list

First, contact the Registrar to request authorization to set up an administrative mailing list. Your request should include a statement on the purpose of the list, the expected level of list traffic (how often will mail be sent, to how many students at a time) and the name of the person who will be responsible for list content and use. If approved, the Registrar will forward your request to Seebeck Computer Center.

After your list request is approved, call the IT Service Desk (205) 348-5555, itsd@ua.edu) for assistance in setting up the list. Your mailing list must have:

  • A list name that will indicate what the information will be about. (The list name will appear in the “From:” field in outgoing e-mail.) A User Service consultant will assist you in picking an appropriate list name.
  • An e-mail address to be the list owner. This account will be the only one that can send to the list. It should not be used for any other purposes. User Service will help you choose and set up an account to be the owner for your list.
  • An e-mail address to which replies and errors are sent, and a person assigned to monitor messages to that account. Most of the time error messages to that account will just report delivery errors (student disk full, student forwarded account incorrectly) but there may be some other messages that need attention. This account cannot be ignored.

One person in your office should be responsible for approving message content and format. Guidelines for message format are given below. If you need to send a message that may not conform to the format rules, call the IT Service Desk before you send the message and discuss what impact that message would have. The Registrar shall make the final decision as to whether non-conforming e-mail can be sent.

The person responsible for the list must also make certain that no unauthorized persons have access to the account that owns the list. Everyone with access to that account to send e-mail to the list must understand the need to maintain its security. The password should not be written down anywhere that an unauthorized person could access it. For additional security, User Service will help you set up the list so that no message is posted until the owner account is notified and approves the posting.

At specified times each semester, the Computer Center and the Registrar will coordinate adding accounts to the Student Information System for new students, and deleting accounts for students who have graduated or left. Some changes to the database (accounts added or deleted) may occur throughout a semester. You are responsible for keeping your list up to date, and making sure you do not send e-mail to accounts that have been deleted.

All of the e-mail addresses in the Student Information System will be assigned in the bama.ua.edu e-mail system. However, all students have the ability to forward their assigned e-mail to another address, including addresses from commercial and other service providers. Be aware that e-mail sent to a valid bama.ua.edu address may fail to be delivered because it was forwarded to another invalid address. You are responsible for managing the error messages your e-mail generates and determining whether you need to contact some students another way.

All students have reasonable but limited space for incoming e-mail. One large e-mail sent to thousands of students could have a noticeable negative impact on students’ ability to receive other e-mail, including other official e-mail. You must monitor the error messages your list generates. If you see that a letter you have sent is generating a large number of “over-quota” delivery failures, you should inform the computer center and the Registrar. The computer center will see what can be done to relieve the e-mail quota overload. The possible remedies may include deleting list e-mail before it is received and/or read. The registrar will inform the mass e-mail list owners of the need to delay further mailings until the problem can be addressed.

Each large mailing has an impact on the campus e-mail system as a whole. A significant number of mailings on any given day could cause delays or even failures in the campus e-mail system. This is why it is necessary for the Registrar and Seebeck Computer Center to know the expected volume of your mailings, and to be informed if that changes.

Remember that there is no way to ensure that all students receive or read your mail message. Undeliverable mail due to lack of available disk space, incorrect forwarding address, or invalid account will cause the listserv to send error messages to the e-mail address designated for such messages. This gives you indication that you may need to attempt to contact that student by other means (although which student is involved can be difficult to ascertain in the case of a bad forwarding address). However, there is no way for you to know if mail is deleted without being read or if it is delivered to or read by a person that is not the intended recipient. Do not use the receipt-notification feature of your e-mail package. This feature is not very informative (the recipient may choose not to send the receipt, or it could have been received by the wrong person), and it can generate a very large volume of e-mail.

Also, since you cannot be sure that the e-mail will only be read by its intended recipients, do not send anything of a sensitive or confidential nature over your list. (This is actually true of all e-mail!)

Your list should be used only for the stated purpose. Do not use your department business list to send out messages for other departments. Any other department that wants to send a message to a large group of students should contact the registrar. Your administrative mailing list should only be used to send information to students related to the business of your department, and only for information that must be sent in a timely way. Do not use your list to send routine information such as office hours, phone numbers, or holidays. Routine information should be on your departmental Web pages, where students can easily find it when they need it. Do not use your list to send out surveys or questionnaires. Instead, put the survey on a Web page and send out a notice directing students to the survey page.

Formatting mailings to large numbers of students

  • The same message must be sent to all students on the list. Listserv does not allow for personalized e-mail.
  • The text or signature of the message must make it clear what University official or department is responsible for the e-mail.
  • The subject line for each message should indicate what the letter is about. Keep in mind that usually only the sender (the account name for the list) and the subject are visible in an e-mail inbox; this is your opportunity to “sell” your message to the recipient so that it does not go unread.
  • The messages should be text only and should be short. If you need to give students more information, provide a link to a Web page where students can find the additional information, or offer a phone number or e-mail address where they can get more information.
  • Do not send an attachment with your e-mail, such as a survey or form for the student to print or look at. Instead, put the information on a Web page and direct the student to its address. Besides the fact that attachments will slow the e-mail system and fill students’ disk space, all university personnel have been advisednotto open any attachments due to the recent virus outbreaks. Information is more likely to be received and read if it is included in the text of the e-mail or a referenced Web page.
  • Do not send a formatted or HTML message (like the ads send out by Amazon.com and others). Messages sent in HTML can be huge, and can cause problems like slowing system e-mail and overloading student disk space. Furthermore, these messages do not actually show your material the same to everyone. Students may use a variety of e-mail clients to read their mail, and each one interprets HTML formatting differently. Also, some students may turn off HTML reading entirely due to security concerns. Keep in mind that the default setting for many mail clients (including Microsoft Outlook and Netscape Messenger) is to send HTML mail, even if you don’t use any special formatting. Please see your client’s preferences and help files or call the IT Service Desk at 205-(205) 348-5555 for more information. (You may also choose to send a test message to itsd@ua.edu to make sure that your settings are correct.)
  • Do not enable delivery or read notification in your mail client for list mail. The information received from these notifications is not guaranteed to be accurate. Plus, they add an additional burden to the e-mail system and your own mailbox.