Harvard undergraduates will be heading to “college” this spring. With changes planned for next semester, student e-mail addresses will no longer terminate in the puzzling @fas.harvard.edu ending, and will instead conclude with the more logical @college.harvard.edu. This amendment will be coupled with needed improvements to Harvard’s complete Webmail system, including a faster and sleeker interface and increased storage capacities of 10 gigabytes.
FAS IT is implementing this new system in response to student demand for better e-mail options than those currently offered by the College. All of their proposed solutions will bring welcomed change to the current e-mail program, which suffers from limited storage capacities and an unintuitive web interface. The new @college endings, though longer, will be favorable to students when corresponding with employers and others outside of the college, who are not familiar with the FAS designation.
We are still unsure how the new system will force changes to the first component of student e-mail addresses. It has been suggested that the new addresses will require full names and class years, such that current juniors would be firstname.lastname@example.org. This arrangement, however, neglects the fact that students often take time off, and in doing so might change their graduation year. A preferable format would be to not include class years, but assign every student an address that includes their full name. Although these addresses may seem unduly long, it is rare that students ever must type out a full address to send an e-mail, as drop down menus allow users to select the appropriate address after entering only the first few letters in the string.
This new and improved format will drastically decrease the incidence of students with numbers in their e-mail address, which often happens when several students share a name. It will also be much easier to identify students based on their e-mail address. Furthermore, this change will aid in contacting students, if their name—but not their e-mail address—is known.
We fear that if given the opportunity to fully customize their e-mail addresses, incoming freshmen might opt for confusing or inappropriate tags, such as “drew.faust@college” or “beer@college,” only to regret it when they find themselves applying for jobs in four years.
We look forward to seeing the results from the pilot program this fall, in which 1,600 students will have an opportunity to test out the new e-mail system with their new address. We commend FAS IT for their commitment to improving the computing experience at Harvard.