Student email switches to Gmail-based DavisMail

UC Davis, meet DavisMail. It becomes the campus email service for students starting this fall.

On Oct. 6, the campus began moving more than 32,000 undergraduate and graduate email accounts from the old system, Geckomail, to DavisMail--a renamed version of Gmail, the free service from Google Inc. The Gmail advisory group chose the name because it links the service with the campus and should remain a good fit as UC Davis continues to grow and diversify.

The switch from Geckomail gives students an email system with much more data storage and features, plus access to popular communication tools in Google Apps for Education. Faculty and staff email accounts are not moving to DavisMail, although the campus will discuss that possibility later.

Students will keep using their existing email addresses. They won't need to do anything to assist the transition except accept Google's terms of service agreement. Students can opt out of DavisMail but will have to choose an alternative service such as those provided by Microsoft or Yahoo. All of that is spelled out in email messages the students have received this quarter.

Information and Educational Technology (IET) hopes to move all the student accounts to DavisMail this autumn, but the task could extend into early 2009. The accounts will move in batches, starting with some graduate students.

Other key points:

--IT Express, the Campus Computing Services Help Desk, will support use of DavisMail. Google Apps will be supported by Google.

--Each account will have upwards of 7 gigabytes of data storage, more than 100 times greater than what Geckomail offers.

--Students will access email through the MyUCDavis Web portal.

--The switch affects all undergraduate and graduate students, except for UC Davis Medical Center students, who use UC Davis Health System mail systems.

--The cha nge will not affect students' contact information in WarnMe, the campus emergency alert system. That's because their UC Davis email addresses are not changing.

IET tried Gmail with about 300 students in winter 2008, then followed up with months of review and discussion with key groups across campus. Students praised the service in surveys.

In June, the University of California Office of the President signed a systemwide, seven-year, Gmail contract with Google, which is providing the service at no cost to the university. The agreement gives UC Davis exclusive control of UC Davis email accounts, and lets the campus back out of the relationship at any time. Davis is the first campus in the system to adopt Gmail.

As required by federal law and university policy, the university will not share personally identifiable confidential information with Google or any other third parties. An ad hoc privacy committee at UC Davis reviewed the Google agreement, and found no concerns that prevent using the service here.

An oversight committee will help steer the transition to DavisMail. It includes representatives from the Associated Students of UC Davis, Office of Student Affairs, Alumni Association, University Communications, the Deans' Technology Council, and IET.