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Alums Disrespected, Tricked By Oberlin Alumni Association

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To the Editors:

A word to the wise from a 1962 alumnus: After graduation, prepare for a lifetime of slick marketing and disingenuous representations by the Oberlin Alumni Association. I’m one of 1,720 alumni who just learned the hard way not to trust OAA’s promises.

OAA has just reneged on a promise it made roughly 15 years ago, which 1,720 of us chose to rely on, and it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks. OAA’s promise was a permanent free email forwarding service. This is different from a normal email address. It invisibly forwards all messages it receives for you to your actual email address, which can, and often will, change from time to time. People change their email addresses, or adopt additional ones, for various reasons. However, changing gets complicated if you’ve put your email address on business cards, letterheads, websites, etc. It’s also a huge nuisance to chase down all your contacts and make sure they use the new address. If you can use a permanent forwarding service, all those hassles are avoided. OAA’s offer seemed generous, and I celebrated that. The virtual address I got seemed kind of clunky, but I have used it confidently in the knowledge that OAA was good to its word. OAA now reports that at least 1,720 alumni accepted its offer.

What we weren’t told was that behind the scenes, it was actually a service that Google offered for free. It is not a service that the College itself actually offered. Because the service is run through Google, it was subject to termination at will. I set aside the issue of whether Google was capturing and/or selling our content. The important thing here is that Google did recently terminate this service.

Now OAA says continuing the service would require “resources,” and since we are “only” 1,720 users, we should all understand and be happy to simply make sure that each one of our lifetimes’ worth of contacts knows to use our current actual address before June 30.

The “resources” issue is interesting, because OAA recently converted its fluffy house organ, Oberlin Alumni Magazine, to full-color on heavy paper. Welcome to the world of smooth talk!

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2 Responses to “Alums Disrespected, Tricked By Oberlin Alumni Association”

  1. Mark Rosenthal on April 3rd, 2018 1:41 AM

    Stan – I encountered that same problem about 15 years ago when our old cable company was acquired by Comcast and they would no longer allow us to use the old domain name. I decided I never wanted to go through that ever again in my lifetime, so I registered my own domain name. But the only reason I knew to do that was because I’ve been a software engineer ever since I graduated Oberlin. People without technical expertise can’t be expected to know these things. And if I were in your situation, I’d be mad as hell.

    The College has done some truly stupid things, but this one is right up near the top of their dumb things list. For Oberlin’s system administrators to set up email forwarding for these addresses on one of their servers should not be a terribly hard task, assuming the addresses were all at a domain name that Oberlin has control of. If they weren’t, then the people who set things up 15 years ago were completely clueless. But assuming they were all at some domain owned by Oberlin, it should only require a small amount of work for Oberlin’s support staff to set up the forwards on their own servers and to handle support. Whatever the cost of continuing the service, it’s negligible when compared to the cost of reduced or eliminated donations from pissed off alumni!

  2. Jeanine Donaldson on April 5th, 2018 8:46 AM

    As an alum of color (’71) I have always felt a disconnect with mainstream alumns like you and now I get it. With all the crap to be concerned about, this is what stokes your ire?

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