NYU students are torturing each other via email, according to a recent blog post in New York Magazine. That is, “torturing” each other by blowing up each others’ email inboxes. That is, blowing up inboxes with thousands of emails.
When sophomore Max Wiseltier realized he could “reply all” to administrative housekeeping emails — it was an accident, as he was trying to forward a paperless tax form to his mother, according to NYU Local, the university blog — his fellow NYU students realized with glee that they could mass e-mail their 39,979 classmates just for the fun of it.
As of yet, it’s been harmless fun. NYU Local reports that students have sent their classmates pictures of everything silly from cats to Nicholas Cage.
“So, how is everyone today?” wrote one student, according to Yahoo! news. One student asked for a pencil, and another asked if his studious peers would prefer to fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck.
It was merely fun and games. Indeed, mass emails can make for a rekindled sense of community. At a school of 40,000, a grandeur with which we at Boston University are familiar, it is hard to generate campuswide collaboration and togetherness.
At the same time, however, the community-fostering fun cannot last. One student, according to NYU Local, called the reply-all ability “a great and terrible power.” And such it is: A. because as fun as they can be, reply-all’s are frustrating and server-clogging; B. because with the ability to mass email an entire community comes with great and risky responsibility. The possibilities for destruction loom dangerously.
For example, students could forgo the cat emails and bully each other publicly, or make embarrassing facts about their least favorite peers widely known. This, of course, jeopardizes the privacy of students as well as their right to a healthy school environment. The effects of cyberbullying can be extreme and devastating.
A private institution should take measures to prevent such shortcomings in its IT systems. There should be no accidental use of the wrong listserv software. Thousands of students took advantage of the reply-all button, according to Yahoo!, and nowhere do students have time for thousands of extra emails in their already-flooded inboxes.
Alas, although it has been fun, NYUers must say goodbye to their kitten gifs and Nic Cage photos. As one student wrote, according to NYU Local, “All of you. Be quiet.