Mass e-mail crisis leads to repercussions

Allison Taylor

University officials have worked to address the mass e-mail incident before spring break and open discussions with the students involved.

Dean of Students Paul Pugh and judicial hearing officers met with 15 to 20 students during the week after spring break regarding the content of their e-mails. As a result of those meetings, students were issued repercussions ranging from a warning to probation, but no one was suspended.

Pugh said the goal of each meeting was to discuss with the student the effect of the e-mails on the community, deter similar actions from being repeated and discuss consequences for those actions.

“Every one was a productive conversation,” Pugh said, adding that all students involved regretted their actions in retrospect and learned from the situation.

Over spring break, Pugh, along with the Rev. John Stack, O.S.A., vice president for Student Life; Kathy Byrnes, associate vice president for Student Life; and Tom Mogan, director of Student Development, downloaded and sorted through all the e-mails sent to determine which ones were offensive and required further action.

“You just have to make a judgment call,” Pugh said.

The University handled the messages on an individual basis, wanting neither to group the different e-mails together, nor ignore the situation entirely, Pugh said.

“I don’t think we overreacted, but we didn’t put our head in the sand either,” he said.

Student Life’s actions come after approximately 200 e-mails were sent to Core Humanities Seminar distribution lists on Feb. 20-21. The first message was intended to alert students on Dining Services’ removal of trans-fats from Donohue Market and Second Storey, and students hit “reply all” to voice topics ranging from responses to the original message, irrelevant subjects, direct criticism of the original sender and blatantly offensive material.

UNIT worked to identify the problem, and Public Safety and Student Life worked to determine what action needed to be taken.

Pugh said UNIT has been reworking its procedure regarding class distribution lists to prevent a similar crisis from occurring again without removing the convenience.

“You want something that students can use, but you don’t want it abused,” he said.

This situation was a learning experience for all parties involved, he said. The University learned about its students and its technological resources, while students recognized how their actions impacted the community.

“People make mistakes,” Pugh said. “We generally have a very honest student body.”