During an already tumultuous year full of inconveniences, it only seems fitting that a source of stability has been taken from students — Gmail.
On June 15, Cal State Fullerton students made the mandatory transition from Gmail to Office 365 Outlook, a plan with the intention of preparing students for a workplace where the platform is an industry-standard.
CSUF’s faculty were already enrolled in Outlook before this migration, and including students was meant to help campus-wide communications, according to the university’s Division of Information Technology page.
However, Outlook’s implementation has only brought a world of problems for many students, especially after spending the entirety of college depending on Gmail’s user-friendly interface and simple organization tools.
Just one glance at Outlook’s interface reveals the grim user experience. With a bleak theme where words and buttons seem to blend into each other, the overall layout is nothing short of a lackluster eyesore.
Even with the option to switch between an old and newer design, both are equally as monotonous.
I’m sure for a higher education institution, it seems logical to want to prepare students for software widely used across different professional fields. Still, an abrupt transition with nothing more than an FAQ on the university’s IT page has left students feeling disorganized.
Since the transition was announced in June, opposition and frustration with this decision appeared in several posts on the university’s Reddit page.
These posts have addressed problems ranging from professor’s emails getting sent to students’ junk mail to the interface’s poor ability to protect against phishing, an attempt from hackers to gather sensitive information.
“I fell for a phishing email through my work email apparently, when before in Gmail most of those kinds of emails were filtered out entirely,” one Reddit user said.
The university’s IT department even sent out an announcement explaining how to avoid suspicious emails and warning students about these phishing attempts through Outlook.
But as students, we shouldn’t have to dodge sketchy emails in our inbox. Especially when the filters we set to avoid these phishing attempts begin to affect our work.
“Why they switched to Outlook still doesn’t make sense to me. Unfortunately, everything from Canvas seems to go into my Outlook spam as well,” another Reddit user said.
Due to the overwhelming amount of organizational tools in the platform, users have to create a set of rules within their email to prevent important messages from getting swallowed into the black hole that’s Outlook.
Even then, that’s still not a guarantee. As for Gmail, the default settings already prevented this.
It isn’t students’ responsibility to continually be tweaking their inboxes for Outlook to do its job. Instead of suffering under the reign of Outlook, the university should offer alternatives to students.
One of the glaringly apparent options is allowing students to return to Gmail if they choose. Sure having faculty and students using the same email software is convenient for the university, but when it becomes a burden for the student body, something needs to change.
If students attempt to log back into their Gmail, they are barred out of their account entirely. Although students still have access to Google’s applications, excluding Gmail from it takes away the value of easily communicating through them.
As someone who frequently uses Google Docs to collaborate on school projects with classmates, using Gmail created a streamlined form of communication that made it simpler to email and work with peers. Constantly switching between Outlook and Google Docs is ineffective and redundant.
Opening up this option for email preference would also grant students the ability to use their Gmail and all the other applications it offers beyond graduation because Google is free of cost.
Though Outlook alone is also free, adding on all of the applications that add meaning to its relevance would have alumni drop $69.99 a year for a Microsoft subscription.
If CSUF’s intention was to better prepare students for the workplace, choosing to adopt this idea in the middle of a global pandemic and a virtual semester seems short-sighted at best.
Opening up the options for students would take the strain off of trying to figure out the complexities of Outlook and would allow students to use an email they’re more comfortable with.
A student’s inbox should be a place of familiarity, not an added stressor.