The Harvard Alumni Association announced Monday that it will continue to offer email forwarding services for alumni in partnership with an external company, reversing course following alumni outcry.
The HAA wrote in an emailed announcement that it would partner with an external email forwarding service to “effectively manage privacy regulations and compliance requirements” to address problems including frequently bounced emails, spam, and phishing emails that affect the current service.
Email forwarding addresses provide an alias where emails can be received, but they do not function as a full inbox. Alumni who support retaining the accounts have pointed to their use for networking and job searches.
Graduates prior to the Class of 2021 had the ability to create an @post.harvard.edu or @alumni.harvard.edu email forwarding address, but the HAA announced in 2021 that it would discontinue the ability to create new addresses.
Last September, the HAA announced that it would deactivate all existing alumni email forwarding addresses, prompting thousands of Harvard alumni to sign Change.org petitions to criticize the decision. Following the outcry, the HAA announced in October that it would not continue with the deactivations.
According to the email, graduates in the classes of 2021 and 2022 will be the first to receive the new service, followed by the graduating Class of 2023. This fall, existing accounts will be migrated to the new service. In 2024, the service will be opened up to alumni who have not yet activated forwarding accounts and future graduating classes.
“Our primary goal throughout this process is to minimize the impact on current users and provide an easy setup of email forwarding for new users,” the HAA wrote in the email.
Victoria W. K. “Vicky” Leung ’91, president of the Harvard Club of the United Kingdom, said she uses her Harvard alumni email address frequently, including for registering for websites and accessing tax returns and official documents.
“When I heard about the discontinuation in September, I was very dismayed because people like me adopt it on the promise that it’s going to be permanent,” Leung said. “And it’s going to be the one email you need all your life.”
From Leung’s conversation with other alumni, however, she has gotten “polarized” reactions regarding the email forwarding service.
“If you have the @post.harvard.edu email address, it is a matter of great concern,” she said. “But if you don’t have it, you can’t care less.”
Rodney S. Lafuente Mercado ’22, who graduated last December, said he foresees himself using the alumni email address frequently. During his job search, he said he saw a “huge” increase in replies when he emailed using his @college.harvard.edu address compared to emails sent from his personal address.
Unlike Harvard, many of Harvard’s peer universities opt to provide their alumni with full-service inboxes.
“Twenty-plus out of 25 offer actual inboxes to their alumni. Harvard has always only had the forwarding address,” said David L. Huang ’97, the lead organizer of a petition against the deactivations that received more than 3,000 signatures.
Despite efforts to create full-functionality email inboxes, the idea was ruled out early, according to Huang and Helen A. Fairman ’91, a co-organizer of the petition.
Fairman said the HAA is concerned with the potential liability of having to hand over the content of emails during legal proceedings.
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on requests for a full inbox and referred reporters to an updated email forwarding page on the HAA’s website.
Still, Leung said Harvard is “definitely moving in the right direction.”
“I am very happy that they listened to us because their alumni body is probably the single biggest resource,” Leung said. “And it’s so reassuring that they see that we’re important.”
—Staff writer Andrew M. Lu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.