Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Thousands of University of New Mexico employees and students will soon get new email addresses as part of UNM President Bob Frank’s plan to more closely align all entities on campus.
But not everyone is happy with the change.
More than 50 UNM Health Sciences Center employees are asking the university to rethink its decision to strike the word “health,” or more accurately, the Spanish translation “salud,” from health care employees’ emails.
They contend the change will cause confusion and is another sign of UNM arbitrarily making changes that involve HSC without seeking feedback.
Currently, the main campus uses the email format “email@example.com” while HSC employees and students use the format “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Other UNM programs, such as the UNM Law School, also have domains that differentiate them. Frank wants all to adopt the “email@example.com” format.
“This is critical from a branding and marketing perspective and how we represent the university to the broader community, that we identify ourselves as one university with a single email domain,” Kevin Stevenson, a strategic planner in the office of the president, told the Journal on Monday afternoon.
Leo Romero, former dean of the law school and an emeritus professor of law, said most of the law school employees wanted to retain their current email addresses, which follow the template “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“If it works now, why change it?” Romero asked.
Among those who signed a May 20 letter to the UNM administration from HSC employees were high-ranking administrators and faculty such as Cheryl Willman, head of the UNM Cancer Center, and Lee Brown, the faculty senate health sciences center council chair. The letter argued that changing the email system would cause problems.
“Our colleagues around the world know us by that email, our patients email us at the ‘salud.unm.edu‘ address and it is frequently the user name for many professional websites and accounts,” the letter says. “The email address has ALWAYS included unm.edu but the domain ‘Salud’ flags us as a member of the Health Sciences Center and not one of the 40+ other programs at UNM.”
Dr. Corey Ford, a senior associate dean for research with the school of medicine, forwarded the letter from the HSC employees to the Journal .
He said in an interview that he understands that the university wants to present a unified image, but he believes there are other ways to do it without changing the email system.
“The feeling here from the people at the Health Sciences Center is that they don’t want to do this,” Ford said. “They haven’t been communicated with. The reasons for it and the value in it are murky at best, mysterious at the least. I think people would be happy to leave this alone and find other ways to advance our institution.”
Earlier this year, the UNM Board of Regents outraged many at the HSC and others in the community when it voted – with little notice – to overhaul the governing structure of the HSC, changing the makeup of its governing board to become a committee of the regents.
The letter also points out that many prestigious university-affiliated hospitals around the nation have specialized emails similar to UNM’s current system, such as Harvard University or the University of Rochester.
“After this transition, emails sent to the previous @salud address will forward automatically to the new @unm address, to ensure there is no risk of lost mail,” Stevenson said.
Ford also wrote a letter to the Journal stressing the concern raised by his colleagues. In the letter, he said the change could cost up to $200,000, based on his estimate of how many full-time employee hours it would take to get it done.
Stevenson said the project would be taken care of in-house, and that the president’s office doesn’t “anticipate any cost aside from the time spent by existing staff members.”
Ford said in an interview that he believes the email changes will cause confusion. For example, an email may come into a “salud” address but go out as a “unm” address, which could confuse both the sender and recipient.
Also among their concerns, HSC employees say they fear losing a part of their culture and possibly confidentiality.
“We are being asked to lose part of our identity as the UNM Health Sciences Center for a goal that seems vague at best and not communicated well,” the letter said.
The email flap comes less than two months after the regents disbanded the former, seven-member HSC governing board, which consisted of five regents and two community members, and replaced it with a committee made up of three regents.
The Board of Regents also approved numerous policy changes that bring the head of the HSC, chancellor Paul Roth, more clearly under the authority of Frank.
In the April memo announcing Frank’s plan to align the main campus and the HSC, he included email systems in the list of programs to consider consolidating. That list also includes the university counsel and the communications departments.
Frank said these changes could improve how the university operates.
“There will be no one-size-fits-all solutions. We will find some opportunities where consolidation is the best approach and others where more integration or better coordination is most appropriate,” Frank wrote in the letter.
Frank’s plan calls for the new email addresses to be mostly in place by the end of June.