Council questions need for mass e-mailing policy

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By Jonathan Munson

In all of its versatility and potential, it is a wonder that the Internet can cause so many problems; but once again, faculty and staff at this college focused on another issue dealing with the Web.

It’s not really the Internet’s fault, though. It’s the policy surrounding it — or in this case, being looked into by the district’s Mass Mailing Committee — that has brought the faculty and staff at this college, even the president, to a near unanimous opposition at Tuesday’s College Academic Council meeting.

In fact, it took the faculty multiple tries to agree upon the wording of Council Secretary John Deosdade’s motion, opposing any policy involving the latest Web-centered issue: the possibility of limiting the SACall listserv, which is basically an electronic mailing list that includes most employees at this college.

“I think that at the other colleges, there is some interest in, I guess, establishing some regulations and rules,” President Robert Zeigler said. “We ought to approach this as a college decision, and if we’re not having problems, then we ought to be continuing with what we do.”

The committee is still in the fact-finding stage, having met only a couple of times, committee Chair Usha Venkat said. There have been many complaints from faculty about the number of messages being received. She also mentioned that college networks do not have infinite capacities.

Venkat said the Mass Mailing Committee is in the process of asking, “Do we really need something like this (policy) in place?”

Members of the Academic Council say “No”.

“We have, in the past, had people who advertised a garage sale, or whatever, and we told people that’s not appropriate and it stopped,” Zeigler said. The overall consensus is simple: SACall poses no problems.

Executive Vice President Kristine Clark questioned the district’s reasoning behind forming the committee. She asked what data has been gathered to warrant concern.

“If there is data, as Kris said, that would indicate something different, then we could certainly look at that,” Zeigler said, “but right now, I don’t know that we have any hard data.”

A major faculty complaint is the lack of user input when the district makes decisions dealing with the Internet.

The switch to the Blackboard Vista Web platform is just one example. Policy over Internet course loads and Web teaching certification are also big issues for faculty and staff. Now it’s the SACall list serve.

Council members asked SAC webmaster Mark Goodspeed and public information officer Deborah Martin, members of the Mass Mailing Committee, how many faculty members are actually on the committee.

They paused for a moment, thinking hard, but the answer came out, “None.”

Martin checked her list of committee members, and noted that all of the members are from the public relations and information technology departments at district colleges.

On the third or fourth try, Deosdade read his motion: “At San Antonio College, we believe in open communication and shared governance, and are managing our SACall listserv appropriately. We believe that this is a college matter; therefore, the San Antonio College Academic Council recommends, in the strongest possible terms, that SACall listserv remain exactly the same in terms of access and content.”

With what was perhaps the loudest “aye” to come from the council this semester, the motion carried.

The SACall occasionally came up in discussion as the council continued with other business; mostly in humorous references.

Tim Rockey, dean of professional and technical education, notified the council that planning for a grand opening ceremony for the new parking garage has begun. He hopes for it to happen before the college breaks for the holidays.

“Should something happen to prevent our being able to do that, we are also planning a contingency to extend the bus shuttle service to the outlying lots,” Rockey said.

Faculty Senate Chair Terry Walch announced that James McLaughlin, vice chancellor for administration, will be coming to this college to meet with the senate Nov. 28.

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