in Digital Web

Why list faculty email addresses?

Professor Tom gives Topsyhis pupil a lesson.
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Why do we put faculty email addresses on department web pages? Do we are ask their permission? Often times, we don’t. We just assume they should be there. But what if they don’t respond? Then what happened?

I think it’d be good to reconsider how we filter information and stream it out to audiences, especially on departmental pages, because depending on the institution and the person, it can be a lot to ask someone to ferret out emails from individual students, coupled with all of the regular mail they’re already responding to.

Should they want to? Sure, but it becomes an impractical task depending on the popularity of the program. It can be unwieldy at different times during the year to expect responses. Why not direct those emails to a departmental staff member?

I think, as always, it depends on the institution. What’s your take?

  1. Smart idea on the configured desktop client idea. You are right, pretty much all of the students I know these days use web-mail to access their campus email. The contact email makes a lot of easier for sure, then.

  2. At least they asked for it, in this case. One would hope this would make them more likely to respond in a timely manner to inquiries.

  3. In our case, we don’t really have “department home pages,” per se. That’s still something we’re working toward. However, on the pages we do have, we have worked with the appropriate departments to place the most appropriate e-mail address(es) on the page. If someone wants a complete list of faculty e-mail addresses or they want the e-mail address of a specific faculty member, they need to visit our employee directory.

    However, regarding the protection of e-mail addresses, I find this an interesting topic. In our case, we are using a custom-built Web content management system (CMS). While building the CMS, I created a function that automatically identifies all e-mail addresses on our Web site (except for specific locations, such as our news releases) replaces the “mailto” link with a link to our contact form and replaces the e-mail address with an encrypted version. Any e-mail addresses that actually appear within the text of the page are then edited to include a truncated version of the username, followed by an ellipsis (similar to the way the reCaptcha e-mail masking works).

    The reasoning behind this was multifold. First of all, we chose to replace the e-mail addresses with encrypted versions, obviously, to protect against spam. We implemented the contact form rather than using mailto links a) to make it easy to decrypt the e-mail addresses and b) because mailto links are becoming less and less valid.

    How many people do you know that don’t use a desktop e-mail client? Personally, I know quite a few (and, I’m sure among students, the incidence is even higher). Without a configured desktop e-mail client, a mailto link is completely useless. However, the contact form works for everyone.

    Again, the nice thing is that the CMS does this replacement on-the-fly, without actually changing the information that’s stored in the database. That way, if I come up with a better way to implement e-mail masking in the future, I can make the change without having to worry about converting anything.

  4. In our case it’s because our faculty asked for it – we went through a redesign a year or so ago and though there were some voices in dissent, the majority opinion was that the faculty email addresses should be on departmental pages for some of the reasons cited above – colleagues from other institutions looking to get in touch, press contacts, researchers trying to make contact, a general ‘make the important bits about me discoverable in google,’ etc. We try and protect from spam bots by replacing the addresses with a gif if you’re not logged into our site, and even that is under review – the faculty would prefer they were clickable mailto links.

  5. I’m actually wondering more about actual departmental home pages, not so much about say, fac/staff directories. Listing emails and such there makes sense. I’m thinking about actual departmental pages, where you can inquire for more information…but there’s no guarantee those people will respond to all inquiries. Why not streamline it?

  6. We list all faculty email addresses (we even have a searchable “employee directory” with contact data for all employees).

    In the interest of staving off some SPAM bots, we are working to put all staff/faculty emails behind a “click for email” image.

    We’re a small campus (< 5,000 students) so publishing faculty emails isn’t that big of a deal; I imagine on larger campuses it may be more of an issue.

  7. We have just been through this with a client of mine. Prior to some administrative changes, there was no thought of having a listing for faculty. Now in today’s age, having an email listed on a syllabus is not enough. Plus, there is the chance that the media may be searching for experts to comment on trends and the like. At the end of the day, people expect information to be accessible and not have to go through multiple hoops to obtain it.

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