UCD Alumni received an email on October 4th, informing them that their UCDConnect Google Workspace accounts would be rescinded on January 10th, 2023.
These accounts, beginning in 2013, had previously been promised as “for life” accounts that past UCD students, provided they finished their degree, would retain indefinitely. Alumni are to retain their non-Google related UCD Connect account, which will remain accessible through the SISWeb Alumni Portal.
This news has sparked large scale criticism from alumni, with almost 10 years worth of past students finding themselves with the need to scour their academic account for any past contacts they might need, and find storage to replace the 5TB previously offered by Google Workspaces. Criticism has also been sparked by a perceived purposeful delay in announcing the news to alumni, with a post on UCD IT’s page announcing the decision timestamped “About a year ago” at time of writing.
In response to the criticism, UCDSU have launched a petition to reinstate Alumni access, with SU President Molly Greenough saying, in conversation with The University Observer, “We became aware of UCD's decision to rescind Alumni access to Google Workspace on the 4th of October, the day UCD IT Services communicated to all alumni. The Union was not consulted at all prior to this decision and the first I heard of the situation was receiving the communication myself to my own UCD email address. We quickly received an influx of queries from understandably frustrated alumni. (...) The issue was gaining traction online and we knew we had to do something to demonstrate to the alumni community that we heard their concerns. We also thought it would be useful to have some concrete data to go to management with to show the level of frustration this was causing within the UCD alumni community. The petition demonstrates that there are a high number of alumni that are hard done by this decision, having amassed over 4,000 signatures to date.”
“We ultimately hope that UCD management will reverse this decision and understand the very real impacts it will have on the university overall. We are willing to work with management to find suitable solutions, like a potential opt-out system. I have been speaking with Acting President Mark Rodgers on this issue and will continue to do so.”
Sarah, who graduated from Medicine in 2021, said of the news, “I rely heavily on the Google Drive access with unlimited storage for files. I thought we would always have access to this drive so I keep a huge amount of data there; moving it is going to take a lot of time but also cost money to store elsewhere. I also use the email address itself for work contacts, job interviews, accounts on various sites. All of which will need to be moved over but ultimately some will be missed, contacts will be lost and my access to a network for my future career will be negatively affected. Personally I am not surprised but I am disappointed that UCD would go back on its pledge to provide google workspaces for life after graduation. I spent six years in UCD, I contributed to college life and UCD, as we all have experienced, call alumni looking for donations. These donations don’t always go to the benefit of students; sometimes the very expensive upgrades to an exclusive on campus restaurant, updates to the president's home, a gym the students have limited access to. Yet keeping to providing Google Workspaces, providing resources to students or a living wage to researchers and teaching assistants always manages to fall outside the budget.”
Ruth, who graduated from Graduate Entry Medicine in 2019, said of the announcement, “I was a student in UCD for 8 years, and the college holds a very close place in my heart. I am distraught by this announcement, as it is my primary email for everything I do. I use the documents, photos and all other gmail services on a daily basis. I use the email to connect to old college friends and keep in touch. We were told when we got the email over 10 years ago that it would be ours for life, and as a result I know that I, as well as many of my friends and colleagues that went to UCD, still use it on a daily basis as their primary email. If there is anything you can do to help us to keep this facility we would appreciate it.”
Dani, who finished a degree in Zoology, responded to the upcoming removal of Google Workspaces “I use my UCD account for all things professional, from job applications to contacting colleagues. It was the email I gave out to colleagues and fellow researchers because it looked professional and I had been assured I'd have it for life. I'm in the process of moving everything from cloud storage to a hard drive, so the upcoming loss of contacts upsets me most, as I am worried I will miss someone when I am informing everyone of my new email and the fact that it will look less professional. In addition, the UCD email gives me access to online research journals, which I have used extensively since graduating, even doing a Masters in Exeter, as the UCD address gave me access to more material than the University of Exeter did. I'm worried that I'm going to lose access to research and lose touch with colleagues or potential opportunities.”
On a personal note, she went on to say “I'm annoyed because the announcement came as a shock, and it's another stressful thing to deal with on top of working and other commitments. It seems bizarre that UCD cited "low usage of the service" as one of the reasons why, when most people I know in the field still use their UCD Connect account. I understand financial constraints are an issue, but wish we could have all found some workaround, like alumni being included in discussions or even discussing some fee to keep everything, as you'd have to pay for access to extra Google or Dropbox storage anyway. I'm definitely worried I'll miss someone when informing my contacts of the change. I gave my UCD email to my Masters thesis supervisor so she could inform me of relevant PhD opportunities, so having to update everyone is a big deal!”
Dylan, who graduated with a Bachelors of Science in 2018, spoke on the news that UCD delayed the announcement of the upcoming removal of the service by close to a year, saying “I don't understand the logic behind that. It makes alumni seem like an afterthought to the administration especially when they continue to ask for donations or to join the controversial UCD University club. While many are not happy with the decision, at least more time would have cushioned the blow and let alumni get organised to come up with a compromise with the administration. That has now been taken away from us.”
When asked for comment on the issue, a spokesperson for UCD wrote “UCD IT Services estimates the total annual cost to continue to facilitate the Google email for alumni is €470,000 plus (increasing year on year) due to the changes by Google to its Workspace for Education, changes to EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), and the need for all UCD email accounts to have Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) to protect against cyberattacks to IT Systems. As a result, the decision was regretfully taken to wind down the Google email service for alumni and to assist those alumni using the service with the transfer of their email data and stored files. Support and guidance with the transfer [of] UCD alumni email data and stored files from Google is available from the UCD IT Services helpdesk at the following number: +353 1 716 2700. An online guide on how to transfer UCD alumni email data from Google and how to transfer ownership of any files stored with Google is also available on the UCD IT Services Support Hub.”
UCD did not respond to requests for comment on the perceived purposeful delay in the distribution of information, or the query on why a date was chosen that will impact current Year of Grace students who remain involved in clubs and societies.