Is Emailing Professors About School Schedule Changes Spam?
from the whatever-you-don't-like-is-spam dept
One of the biggest problems with any kind of regulations concerning “spam” is that people define it very differently — with the core definition tending to be “anything I don’t like” which is rather difficult to reduce into written regulation. That problem seems to be cropping up at Michigan State, where a student is being disciplined for spamming the faculty. The student was upset about a plan to shorten the 2009 fall semester, and sent emails to 391 faculty members, alerting them to the planned change, and pointing out how it could impact their syllabi and schedules. Apparently one out of the 391 professors complained about this as spam, and the school notes that its rules say email to more than 30 people is considered spam (the actual policy seems to leave some wiggle room, but not much).
While you could see how professors would get annoyed if they were constantly bombarded by students supporting different causes asking for help, it’s still difficult to see how this particular use of the email system really counts as spam. Some are pointing out that, since Michigan State is a public university, it needs to protect students’ free speech rights — and disciplining this student goes against those rights. Overall, the fear should be that this sort of disciplinary process acts as a hindrance to public participation among students. If actually trying to get out the word on an issue, by sending emails to the folks who are impacted, is likely to get them disciplined, then won’t people start to think twice before even bothering? Is that the message Michigan State is trying to send to its students?