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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA mulls Google e-mail switch

    The audience has spoken. Now it’s up to the judge, as Google is up for consideration as the new e-mail system for faculty and staff at the UA.

    The decision has already been made to change student e-mail to the Google system before the start of the school year, according to University Information Technology Services.

    The timeline for faculty and staff is less certain.

    Students’ sign-in and passwords will remain the same. The only difference students will notice is being loaded to a different e-mail home page after logging in.

    The final decision on the possible switch to Google for faculty and staff lies with Michele Norin, the UA’s UITS chief information officer.

    Faculty and staff attended Google Road Shows the past few months, and a team of school-wide representatives collected their questions and notes, and then turned them over to Norin.

    Norin said that it may be months before she reaches a decision on whether to enact the new system, but Google or not, the campus will be changing.

    “”One of the things we’ve acknowledged is we need to upgrade the e-mail and calendar system we have now,”” Norin said.

    Lisa Stage, marketing specialist for the Office of Student Computing Resources, said she recently had problems with morning e-mails not coming in until noon or later, an example of a problem that could be fixed by adopting a new Google e-mail system for the university.

    Faculty and staff currently use Meeting Maker as their calendaring system, but many of the faculty and staff who attended the Google Road Shows expressed their displeasure with it. Not everyone is on Meeting Maker, and there is no way to integrate the e-mail system with the calendaring one.

    The UA uses a variety of different places to share documents and communicate, which are not always compatible, said Tom Rees, associate director of UITS.

    “”It’s not that I necessarily have a problem with the system today; it’s just it’s not very integrated,”” Stage said. “”We should be on the same system, so that we can integrate faculty and with staff.””

    “”The faculty and staff had a lot of good questions. Some wanted to know if there were certain features about the system,”” Norin said. “”There were some questions about certain kinds of information we need to protect, and if there was a way to protect them and privacy issues.””

    Personal information was the main concern of faculty and staff, said Gil Salazar, principal support systems analyst for Educational Communications and Technologies.

    “”Google claims they are in accordance with the student protection law that protects students’ FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) records information. That stuff shouldn’t be on e-mail anyway,”” Salazar said. “”Whatever is in place now, as far as the application of rules and laws, will still apply with Google being the provider.””

    The final decision is currently being held up to better understand the functionality of Google and how it compares to today’s system, Norin said.

    “”Will it support all of the operational and communication activities that we need in this kind of environment,”” Norin said, “”sharing of information, documents, e-mail, calendaring and scheduling meetings.””

    While a decision might not come right away, the UA is currently leaning toward Google, Norin said.

    “”I think that there is a strong case to be made for Google. There is more information that I need to explore before I say, ‘Yes that’s it,'”” Norin said. “”It’s a good product with lots of good tools, and people are using it today. It’s definitely a viable option to continue to explore.””

    No matter the outcome, the system changeover will not affect faculty or staff during the school year.

    “”There will be some work involved in migrating the current e-mail into the new system,”” Salazar said. “”There will be a migrate button that will move the works over into the Google space. We’re trying to make it so each individual will migrate when they want to. No mass migration.””

    “”We’re trying to minimize the disruption to zero,”” Norin said. “”We don’t want a situation where people can’t get to their e-mail.””

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