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Harvard Alumni Association to Deactivate Email Forwarding Services Over Next Two Years

The Harvard Alumni Association office is located at 124 Mount Auburn St.
The Harvard Alumni Association office is located at 124 Mount Auburn St. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Vivi E. Lu and Leah J. Teichholtz, Crimson Staff Writers

Ann Forman Lippens ’11 said she “barely used” her alumni email forwarding address after her graduation, except in one important moment — to email her now-husband after meeting him at a bar.

“I didn’t want him to have my gmail address in case he ended up being a total weirdo,” Lippens, a former Crimson Design editor, wrote in an email. “So I used my account to email him.”

Now married a decade later, Lippens speculated that email forwarding gave her a sense of privacy and perhaps even the confidence to reach out.

But last month, the Harvard Alumni Association announced it will deactivate all alumni email forwarding addresses over the next two years, leaving some alums concerned about the loss of this means of communication. Email forwarding services provide an alias where emails can be received but are not fully-functioning inboxes.

Graduates following the Class of 2020 did not have the ability to create forwarding accounts.

Some existing accounts will be deactivated as early as Dec. 1, per an email from the Harvard Alumni Association sent to the impacted alums, which cited email security, spam filtering, and functionality considerations in the decision.

Adam S. Hickey ’99, who received notice from the HAA on Sept. 30 that his email would be deactivated on Dec. 1, said the news was “somewhat shocking.”

“I liked the idea of having an address that was going to follow me forever, so that if I change from one provider to another in the future, that address would always be good. And so I used my post.harvard address for almost everything, virtually everything that asked me for an email address,” said Hickey, a former Crimson Editorial editor. “Over the last 20-some years, hundreds of accounts.”

Harvard spokesperson Christopher M. Hennessey wrote in a statement that the University introduced alumni email forwarding in the late 1990s, and technologies around security and spam filtering have since evolved. Many alumni have expressed frustration with the functionality of forwarding services, and Harvard is typically unable to address these problems, he wrote.

Hennessey added that Harvard will not be replacing alumni email forwarding services with fully functioning inboxes due to the legal and security risks associated with the undertaking.

Emily Van Dyke ’03, president of the Native American Alumni of Harvard University and a board member for the Harvard Club of Seattle, said she worries the change may lead to “impacts on communications” with members of the groups.

“Those of us who have a very small, very overcommitted group of people like on NAAHU’s board, we’re not going to have the resources to proactively come up with a way to make sure people aren’t taken by surprise if if they’re suddenly effectively removed from our listserv,” Van Dyke said.

In an email to leaders of alumni clubs and shared interest groups, HAA Executive Director Philip W. Lovejoy wrote that organizations that use forwarding services for verification of alumni status or as an email account will be presented with alternative solutions.

“While we explore alternatives, your Club or SIG email forwarding address will not be deactivated until we have a new option to provide,” Lovejoy wrote.

Some alumni had not heard about the forwarding service deactivation prior to outreach from The Crimson.

“I didn’t know about this and I don’t know the underlying reason why they’re discontinuing,” Henry Li ’16 wrote in an email. “I don’t use the email very much at all, maybe once over the past 5 years, but it would still be nice to keep it, especially if it’s not costing Harvard much money.”

Though Van Dyke said deactivations may pose new challenges, she acknowledged the reasons behind phasing out the service.

“I am sorry that they’re not able to honor this commitment because we were all told that we’d have these emails in perpetuity,” Van Dyke said. “It is disappointing to lose that, but I’m sure we’ll manage.”

—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.

—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.

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