Email benefits for vice chancellors

January 20, 1995

Lucy Hodges's article (Multimedia, THES, January 13) on the use of e-mail by the president of Ohio University implies that his widespread use of this form of technology is both novel and unique among university chief executives.

When I joined the University of Essex as vice chancellor in July 1992 I ensured that I had an email address from day one; that address (rjohn@essex.ac.uk) is on all of my stationery, and is in the university email directory (both the hard copy and that on our World-Wide-Web Home Page). Our new registrar and secretary, who arrrived a month later, was similarly pro email, and very soon a great deal of correspondence among ourselves, our PAs and secretaries, and the pro vice chancellors flowed through the network; most of the administrative staff have now joined us.

We save time and paper by communicating this way -- while ensuring that hard copies are made of important material and messages archived.

Routine requests -- such as those for permission to be out of the country during term time -- are now handled directly between applicant and v-c without the intermediate steps of secretarial time and paper.

I, like other senior staff, am also on the network at home, which makes communication without contact even easier. I am sure that I fit Lucy Hodges's description of Dr Glidden, for I certainly spend "a chunk of every day hunched over" one of my computers. I know of no other v-c who publishes an email address outside the institution, and I have not yet convinced CVCP to add such addresses to their directory of v-cs. If the CVCP were to go on the network (like the HEFCE has already done) not only would communication be much easier but a great deal of paper could be saved. We could select from the Home Page that which we wished to download, and could get messages to each other quickly and efficiently. Some fear that publicly announcing one's email address will be to invite a deluge, much of it of junk mail. That has not been my experience. People use it responsibly to make contact with me, and I use it to get messages quickly to people.

For my research, email is a godsend. I rarely meet the people I collaborate with but we continually exchange ideas, data, part-interpreted analyses, and draft manuscripts. Let us hope The THES's decision to go on the Internet will presage a more modern attitude to communication among my peers.

RON JOHNSTON Vice chancellor Essex University

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