Campus restores email list service, with improvements

The UC Davis central email list service has been fully restored, with a few changes.

Information and Educational Technology (IET) temporarily suspended the service (also known as Sympa) Oct. 28-29 after an email message, sent to more than 1,000 public email lists at UC Davis, flooded campus email accounts with tens of thousands of unwanted, duplicate messages.

The damage could have been much worse. The suspension let IET clear out most of the duplicate messages, block new copies, and create new safeguards. IET restored the service in phases starting late Oct. 29.

The revised guidelines and default settings should prevent a repeat of the problem. Under the new rules:

  • Users can see only lists they subscribe to, plus any public lists. By default, all lists are now private, although the list owner can choose to make it public.
  • Users cannot send a single email to more than five lists.
  • New list requests from students must come from recognized student organizations, or have a faculty or staff sponsor.

As before, the IT Express Service Desk will approve new lists. IT Express routinely approves requests from faculty for class lists, as well as list requests from staff (assuming the list has an appropriate name). If there is a question about approving a list, IET management will either make the call or escalate the decision.

The service revisions are permanent, though more changes may come from campus leadership if necessary.

Regular email still went through

Hundreds of faculty, units, groups and clubs use the list service to distribute email messages to students, members, or followers. During the suspension, lists supported by Sympa did not send messages, although regular campus email (such as Office 365, DavisMail and uConnect) still went through.

Faculty, students and staff can create lists by going to the service website. The IT Knowledge Base has instructions.

The UC Davis community is an open and collaborative environment, and the lists were designed to enable an open community. However, the previous controls proved inadequate.

The mailing that caused the problem did not follow campus procedures for sending mass email messages. The sender, a student, sent it to more than 1,000 lists that had previously been visible, causing mail loops within automated incident-response ticketing systems, a rash of unsubscribe requests from individuals using the reply-all button, and a general level of confusion on many lists.

For more information, please see The operating status of email and many other services is always available at If you have questions or concerns, please contact the IT Express Service Desk at 530-754-HELP (4357) or