April 3, 2009
UCSD Sends 28,000 Acceptance E-mails in Error
It has happened to all of us. You compose an email and click the Send key ... only to instantly realize that you sent it to the wrong person. Your next step is to frantically scramble for your email Outbox to try and stop the transmission. You open the Outbox just in time to see the email disappear from your pending list, spread wings and fly out into the cyber universe.
Did you just get sweaty palms reading that? If you’re lucky your gaffe was an innocuous little message inadvertently sent to the wrong friend. No harm, no foul. If you’re unlucky it was an email that will end up insulting someone or damaging a business relationship. However if you’re really, really unlucky, you mistakenly sent the email to an entire list of the wrong people. Maybe 28,000 people?? Yes, that’s what some unfortunate fellow at UC San Diego did earlier this week. In what has been an exceptionally difficult college admission year in California, 28,000 applicants to UC San Diego received an acceptance email earlier this week. The e-mail began, “We’re thrilled that you’ve been admitted to UC San Diego”. Their jubilation quickly turned sour however when they later received a second email stating that a mistake had occured. They had actually not been accepted. According to UCSD admissions director Mae Brown the email was sent to the entire list of 46,000 applicants instead of only the 18,000 who had been accepted.
Oops ... sorry.
We live in an age of instant communications. Email has already replaced “snail mail”. That debate has long been officially concluded. Unfortunately the tortoise had no real fighting chance against the hare. In fact, email itself is now being scorned for being too slow and is being superceded by texting and instant messaging. People want and expect to receive information immediately. Not so long ago we had to wait days or weeks to receive information sent by mail. Today, critical data regularly traverses the globe in seconds.
Part of my working life is spent in the IT world. Rarely does a week pass without someone asking if they can retrieve an email that was sent in error. There are systems aplenty to recover deleted files. As a general rule however, you cannot recover an email once it has been sent. Speeding on the information super-highway can be a little dangerous at times. I know of at least one administrator at UC San Diego that is longing for the good old days of the tortoise.
The full LA Times story is at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ucsd-reject1-2009apr01,0,7943711.story