The Advance-Titan

Campus opposes Gmail change

UW Oshkosh could be moving away from using Google and towards Outlook to power Titan Apps, the email client used by students and faculty members on campus.

According to an email sent by Chief Information Officer Ann Milkovich on Sept. 27, a switch to Office 365 is a possibility in the future.

“All campuses in the UW System are now on Office 365 as a common email/calendaring platform–UW Oshkosh is the only UW campus not using that platform,” Milkovich said. “Remaining on Gmail prevents us from benefiting from both the UW System collaboration and our collective ability to control costs.”
Associate Professor Tracy Slagter said she believes being different from the rest of the UW System does not make UWO worse off in this case.

“I understand that other UW System schools use another provider, but I’m not convinced that that alone is a reason for us to reject a system that is working quite successfully for us,” Slagter said. “I like that we’re different. In my experience, faculty at other UW System schools wish they had a Google-based system like ours.”

Slagter said she found that members of other universities often used private Gmail accounts to work with her because of the ease of the Google suite.

“In collaborating with people at other schools, it’s quite often been the case that they use their personal Gmail account (vs. their UW system accounts) to collaborate because it’s just so much easier to work through Google…,” Slagter said. “To switch to something that makes us less efficient seems like a huge step backward to me.”

Milkovich said switching platforms typically is not a popular move among users.

“Changing software that impacts all of campus will always cause concern,” Milkovich said. “People are expressing opinions on both personal preference for Gmail versus Outlook as well as the impact of the possible change.”

According to Slagter, the synergy of Google products makes it easy for her to collaborate with others and get work done.

“Mostly, I love how it all works together: I can move easily between email, Google Docs, Calendar and Forms, for example, without any clumsy logins or concerns that other UW Oshkosh users might not be able to access items I send,” Slagter said. “Personally, I think the integrated system we have has made me more efficient.”

Senior Brianna Fehlberg said she found Office 365 to be inferior to Gmail when she used the former at a previous job.

“I felt like Outlook is kind of outdated,” Fehlberg said. “Gmail feels more user friendly to me.”
According to Milkovich, the differences between the two options are more about personal preference than overall quality.

“Some users will say that Outlook is less interactive and user friendly; other users will say the same about Google,” Milkovich said. “Each platform offers benefits that the other does not. It boils down to different feature use and in some cases, just personal preference.”

UWO Chancellor Andrew Leavitt addressed the concern over the potential switch happening so quickly in an email sent to UWO employees on Sept. 28.

“I want to assure you decisions that impact all corners of campus do not happen in a vacuum, nor do they happen without proper research and analysis,” Leavitt said.

According to Leavitt, groups representing the campus community have been involved in the decision to potentially move away from Google.

“Information Technology has been investigating the options of our email platform for several months and has kept both Leadership Council — which has leaders from each governance group — and Administrative Staff informed and involved,” Leavitt said.

Milkovich said students and faculty members concerned about the potential change should contact their representative group.

“It’s always best for the campus community to work through their shared governance channels,” Milkovich said. “Concerned individuals should express their preferences to their constituent representatives.”

Slagter said she appreciated the email from the Chancellor confirming that any changes had yet to be made.

“It was a very nice email that acknowledges the issue and the need for enhanced transparency surrounding the decision,” Slagter said.

Milkovich said changing email providers would slow down the campus, but service would not stop outright.

“There is always a small slowdown in productivity when learning a new program, even one that is reasonably familiar, but we do not expect any system downtime,” Milkovich said. “As far as data transfer goes, a solution that manages both historical record-keeping and needed files and emails is a requirement if we change systems.”

According to Slagter, faculty could adapt to a different system but making the choice to change would be disappointing.

“To have a system that people genuinely like and have built courses around taken away in favor of what appears to be an inferior product is simply discouraging,” Slagter said.

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Campus opposes Gmail change