Dozens of eMail messages telling high school seniors whether they had been admitted to Harvard University for next year never arrived recently, after America Online interpreted the messages as junk eMail.
“This wasn’t exactly the instant response we intended,” William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, told the Boston Globe.
After anthrax spores were mailed through the U.S. postal system, Harvard began using eMail to inform applicants quickly of whether they had been rejected or accepted. eMail was used to notify almost all of the 6,000 students who applied in the school’s early admission process.
But for reasons that even AOL could not explain, the service blocked between 75 and 100 of the eMails in December because AOL’s servers flagged the messages as “spam,” the unwanted eMail messages that clog users’ mailboxes. The messages were bounced back to the university.
“Spam is our No. 1 problem. But it’s hard to say what would have caused the system to filter eMail from Harvard,” AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said.
The problem proved to be more trouble for Harvard than it was for the students. Most just telephoned the admissions office to find out if they had been accepted.
Admissions officers plan to begin posting a notice on the college web site telling students to make sure their internet service doesn’t block Harvard eMail messages. And, as ever, the college said it would continue to use the postal system to notify applicants.