After years of having to deal with Rmail’s shortcomings, Ryerson students can rejoice over the university’s intent to switch to Gmail. Leslie Walker reports
After years of consideration, Ryerson is taking its final steps in order to switch to Gmail.
In November, Ryerson’s Computing and Communication Services (CCS) and the Advisory Committee on Academic Computing proposed that the administration implement the Google Apps for Education Online Suite.
Julia Hanigsberg, vice president administration and finance, announced Friday morning that she and Alan Shepard, provost and vice president academic, have approved the decision.
These next steps include assessing all privacy implications, security elements, system integration and negotiating contracts with Google.
The full suite will be available, but Ryerson will focus on Gmail and Google Calendar to start.
“This is a new platform from which we’ll be able to look at different options,” Hanigsberg says.
Gmail will be a bigger and better alternative to Rmail and Google Calendar will offer cross-platform calendaring between students, staff and faculty.
Hanigsberg said the new system will be faster and smoother than Rmail, which is now 10 years old.
“It will be all the things we’ve come to expect – we all have very low tolerance for technology to be anything but perfect,” she said.
Hanigsberg said that if all goes well the new system will be in place by fall 2012.
If the process continues on schedule, students will receive a notice at the end of August asking them if they would like to switch to Gmail or remain on Rmail.
Hanigsberg expects that the students keeping the old system will be a very small group.
“I have a Gmail account myself and I like the way it operates,” said Diana Olszewski, a first-year business student who plans to switch.
“Google also has a good reputation of being able to hold a lot of information.”
Bianca Manco, a second-year criminal justice student, says that she has never been a fan of Gmail, but she finds the current system too unreliable.
“I’ll probably make the switch if Google can make it more efficient for students,” she said.
Adopting Google Apps is not the first choice for Dave Mason, a professor at Ryerson’s School of Computer Science.
“I would prefer if the university could afford and provide a better internal system,” he said.
Mason doesn’t think Ryerson is prepared to commit the money that would require.
However, he said that Google is probably the school’s best bet.
Ryerson has been hesitant to implement Gmail because the American Patriot Act makes private information held in servers like Google available to the American government without notice or warrant.
Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act states that personally identifiable information like academic standing, marks, and contact information must be kept confidential.
It was discovered that Canada’s terrorism laws are similar to the American Patriot Act and allows for the same information to be accessed and shared with the United States if need be.
From a security perspective, Hanigsberg said Gmail would in fact be much less vulnerable.
“The security of their information is so beyond anything we [or any other university] could possibly achieve,” she said.
Lakehead University made the switch in 2007 and the University of Alberta announced their intent in September 2011, despite initial privacy concerns.
Google Apps for Education is free for universities but some costs will be implemented to integrate the system and continue maintaining Rmail.