A prankster sent an e-mail message criticizing fraternities and sororities to every account at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Labor Day, leaving administrators scrambling to convince students and professors that the university’s network is secure. To add to the confusion, the message appeared to have been sent by the university’s chancellor.
“It has been my concern over the years, that the Greek culture of alcoholism and lack of respect for the community degrades campus life,” said the message, which had the subject line “Regarding Greek life on campus” and seemed to come from the e-mail address of the university’s chancellor, Richard Herman. “These organizations present themselves as prestigious, yet are discriminatory, serve to perpetuate social inequality, especially with respect to the opposite gender, and promote a lack of diversity,” the message continued.
Soon after, an actual university administrator sent a short e-mail message to every e-mail account explaining that the anti-fraternity message “was a hoax and was NOT sent by Chancellor Richard Herman and was NOT authorized by the campus administration.”
Officials say that no personal information was compromised by the person who sent the message, and that it was an isolated incident. “What’s important is that students understand that there is no security concern,” Mike Corn, director of Security Services and Information Privacy at the university, told The Daily Illini this week. The message went to more than 129,000 accounts.
College students often ignore their official university accounts these days, choosing other forms of communication like Facebook and instant messaging instead. So the prank at the Illinois campus may in fact lead even more students to shy away from the university’s system.
With that in mind, Mr. Corn wrote a column that ran today in The Daily Illini. “Despite this, we strongly encourage you to use your University e-mail
address for all school-related activities,” he said.
Why? For one thing, he said, that’s how many important notices are sent.
Plus there are other benefits, he argued. “If you submit a homework assignment from your Gmail account to another Gmail account and it doesn’t show up, we can’t help you,” he continued. “If it’s from a campus address to a campus address we can check to see if the message was sent and/or delivered, which could save you a world of problems.”
Meanwhile, the forged message seems to have sparked a debate on the campus about whether or not the message attributed to the chancellor actually made some good points. —Jeffrey R. Young