Tuesday, October 5, 2004 Keep Your Parakeet To Yourself

The Internet really revolutionized the college experience. Once upon a time, if a department at Georgetown wanted to send information to students, they had to print out a letter and send it to students through campus mail. They could not send gobs of extraneous information, because they had to pay for the mailings out of their small department budgets.

Nowadays, if a department feels the need to disseminate information, all they need to do is attach some files, maybe throw in some JPEGs for good measure and send it to the biggest available listserv.

The Hoya editorial board has harped on the university for several years about this abuse of e-mail. To the university’s credit, things have been getting better. The Office of Student Affairs used to be the biggest culprit of sending unwanted spam. In the past two years, the countless e-mails became a weekly consolidated e-mail. The amount of information groups can send out became strictly limited.

Other departments continued to offend.

Last spring I distinctly remember receiving frequent e-mails from the study abroad program in Quito, Ecuador. A senior who does not know five phrases of Spanish (hola, gracias, es carne del burro – that’s it.), I should be easily pegged as somebody who does not need the Quito e-mails.

After more harping editorials, University Information Services again restricted the ease with which university departments can spam the hapless student body, allowing fewer administrators the ability to approve mass e-mails. I was pretty optimistic.

Then in early September I received a 615 kilobyte e-mail from brazilgeorge-town.edu. In our small, 20 megabyte Georgetown e-mail boxes, 615 kilobytes is a lot of prime real estate.

I was annoyed and disappointed so I sent brazilgeorgetown.edu the following letter.

“Please remove me from your spam list. And why on earth would you ever send an e-mail that is 615K? How rude and thoughtless can you possibly be? Georgetown only gives us 20M mail boxes.”

Feeling pleased with myself I promptly forgot the entire incident. Then, this past Saturday evening I was in a particularly foul mood when a 222 kilobyte e-mail appeared in my box from, you guessed it, brazilgeorgetown.edu.

The important information in this e-mail? A picture of a Brazilian flag. A close-up of a stone face, probably that Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro. And, inexplicably, an extreme close-up of a parakeet or a parrot or a kookaburra – some creepy bird. After the pictures were some speaker events and a word file inviting me to one of the speaker events.

Now if Brazilian studies wants me to see the flag to set the tone for the e-mail, I can deal with that. The Jesus face could conceivably entice me into visiting Rio someday. But honestly, a parakeet? What possible purpose could a parakeet serve?

Annoyed by that weird parakeet and assuming that nobody actually checked this e-mail address and used it only for spam, I sent another rude response.

“Why did you send out this enormous e-mail? Don’t you know that students only have limited space in their boxes and this sort of spam really clogs things up? Please be considerate of students. Think before you act. It’s not that hard.”

Much to my surprise brazilgeorgetown.edu responded mere minutes later. (I have preserved the capitalization of the e-mail to emphasize the thoughtlessness that goes into sending e-mails.) “not a problem. you have been deleted from the server. don’t get so upset about minor things. enjoy your weekend.”

The anonymous responder at brazilgeorgetown.edu is right. An e-mail from the Brazilian Studies Program is not a big problem. Besides, I’m a savvy Internet user and I forward my e-mail to a two-gigabyte Yahoo! account. I doubt that deliberate malice toward the class of 2005 motivated the Brazilian Studies Program. But it is the principle of it.

From this episode, I think we both learned a little lesson.

I learned that multiple rude e-mails can get you removed from annoying listservs. I would strongly encourage all students to try this out.

Hopefully not only Brazilian studies, but all university departments, will learn from this story too. Do not thoughtlessly send annoying and enormous e-mails, but if you must, nobody needs a picture of a giant parakeet.

Josh Zumbrun is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and chair of The Hoya’s board of directors. He can be reached at chairthehoya.com. Days on the Hilltop appears every Tuesday.

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