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Slow Gmail switch protects best interests of students in long term

By Staff Editorial     2/14/12 6:00pm

After more than a year-long attempt to switch from Rice Webmail to Gmail, Information Technology and Google have finally signed a contract, meaning Rice students will begin using Gmail next semester (See story, pg. 1). University administrators decided to switch to Gmail because of student interest and the perceived usefulness of the Google applications associated with Gmail, such as Google Documents.

The success of this switch depended on Rice's ability to negotiate a deal with Google that would protect students' intellectual property rights. The length of time Rice took to sign with Google shows the university's commitment to keep students' best interests in mind. Under the terms and services that normal Gmail users accept when they make an account, users give Google the rights to everything that is sent through their emails. The year-long wait for Google services is worth it if it has ensured the safety of student's work.

Another issue with the switch to Gmail is that Google is, of course, in charge of running the servers. This means that at if Google crashes or if students need to access archives that Rice no longer has the power to troubleshoot these situations. Though the switch is a trade-off between complete email control and security, as email could be kept in servers in other countries across the world instead of on campus, the benefits and convenience of using Gmail campus-wide should definitely outweigh the small amount of potential risk, especially as the university seems to have taken every measure to ensure that Rice keeps all of its intellectual property rights.

Furthermore, IT worked with the Student Association, which voted for the switch, making Rice one of the only universities in the nation to involve student input in the decision.

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