WKU works to control spam emails students receive

Nick Bratcher

It fills your inbox with promises of free trips to Jamaica and cool jobs that pay millions of dollars to do absolutely nothing.

Though spam email does find WKU students’ email addresses, WKU has a complex process for limiting the amount of spam students receive.

Each day, about three million emails are sent to students, faculty and staff at WKU, said Gordon Johnson, director of Administration Systems and Applications.

Despite the large quantity of emails, Johnson said the directory system makes it very difficult to gain mass access to students’ email addresses.

“A student’s email is actually in the directory information, so that’s open to the public,” he said. “That’s about the only public availability of it though, and those are hard to harvest. You can’t just pull up every student email.

“You have to search by some sort of initial letters of the first and last name. You can’t just pull everyone up.”

Even the switch to the new TopperMail last spring was intended to block spam, Johnson said. Information Technology used to screen the mass amount of email but now runs it through Microsoft Live, a Windows program created to handle such a system for a university or business.

“When we had all the email up under us, we filtered it out so that we only let about 200,000 emails through to about 30,000 accounts,” he said. “Incoming email was about three million a day that we filtered out before it ever touched the mailboxes. We found it to be the same to a large degree when we moved to Live.”

But there are ways to send mass emails to students, both internally from departments and schools and externally from businesses or programs, Johnson said.

Internally, WKU’s email system does not allow more than 300 recipients for any one email, so departments often ask for IT’s help in sending out a mass email to students about a scholarship or opportunity, Johnson said.

Howard Bailey, vice president for Student Affairs, handles all emails concerning student activities outside the classroom, and University Registrar Freida Eggleton handles all emails concerning academics.

Eggleton said she reviews the purpose of the email as well as the requested number of student recipients to determine if it is relevant and worth sending through the mass system.

“Mass email is not used to advertise events for students nor is it used to advertise new courses,” Eggleton said. “It has to be something that would be of interest to a broad range of students.”

Johnson said businesses often approach WKU with opportunities for students and hope to contact students through email. That process is handled through Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel.

Wilkins said those email requests are rarely, if ever, accepted.

“We generally don’t permit those kinds of mass emails, at least through our system,” she said. “I guess that a vendor could sit down with a campus phonebook and fill in all the email addresses, but we don’t provide access to our system to anyone not affiliated with the university.”