E-mail has become ubiquitous at Yale.
“I check it, it’s always on in my office. I read it whenever I’m at my desk,” Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said.
And Trachtenberg is not the only one with eyes often glued to a computer screen — from the upper levels of administration to the dorms around the campus, e-mail has seeped into almost every aspect of the University’s daily life. While e-mail facilitates communication, Trachtenberg said it can also cause a little anxiety.
“The increase is dramatic,” Trachtenberg said. “There are some times when you want to tear your hair out, there are so many e-mails. The question is not if it’s made my job more difficult — but the aura about e-mail or what people have invested in e-mail is the notion that you have to answer them right away, and the urgency is what makes me a little nervous about getting so many.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead did not use e-mail before he became dean in 1993, but said he now uses the medium for about 98 percent of his written work.
“I do a great deal of the dean’s business through e-mail,” Brodhead said. “I do some of my most official business through e-mail, but I’m also just as likely as anyone to send forwards.”
Other Yale administrators also receive plenty of e-mails, not all of them friendly.
“I think in some ways people use it as a way to jot off messages that they might not want to tell people in person,” Director of Dining Services David Davidson said.
But Davidson said he strives to answer the 75 or so e-mails he receives every week.
“It’s a lot of reading,” Davidson said. “[But] if someone has a question I will reply and I will send a thank you for the e-mail.”
Professors and students also rely on e-mail, and chemistry professor Narasimhn Ganapathisubramanian said e-mail can help reduce the physical distance between Science Hill and the rest of campus.
“It makes my job a lot easier — I’m really happy with it,” Ganapathisubramanian said. “It makes the student’s life a lot easier, especially the science students. We are far away from the Old Campus.”
Elizabeth Collister ’02 said that although e-mail is convenient, she still would prefer to use the telephone.
“I communicate with friends and family because they live on the West Coast,” Collister said. “It’s easier to e-mail, but I like calling and talking to them.”
Another frequent e-mail complaint involves junk mail, or spam.
But psychology professor Jerome Singer said he has managed to stay in contact with his family via e-mail while minimizing spam.
“I have been able to avoid junk e-mail as much as possible,” said Singer, who did not even use e-mail three years ago. “I don’t even open it.”
As e-mail spreads throughout the campus, Trachtenberg said it has evolved to a point where not every message is urgent.
“Many people I know don’t respond to e-mail as quickly as we used to do when e-mail first came on the horizon,” Trachtenberg said. “Those were truly problems or issues that had to be dealt with immediately, but now they’re not.”
Trachtenberg said there is at least one more definite consequence of the increased popularity of e-mail.
“I get many, many fewer telephone calls,” Trachtenberg said.