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a perspective from the precariat

I have had four different institutional email addresses in the past five years: first from my PhD institution and then my three subsequent short-term teaching/research gigs. All of these have become much more difficult to access once I have switched institutions. As a result, I find that I need to use a personal email address for some stuff - especially correspondence with journals and long-term collaborations. I will also use it when I am in-between institutional email addresses, like when one contract ends in May and another starts in August. I do this even when I have a working institutional email, because I don't want to lose contact with people after I change jobs.
I'll happily consign my "work" gmail address to the flames as soon as I have a permanent position, but until then, I don't have the luxury.

Shay Logan

I agree with APFTP and the OP: when you change institutions as often as early-career folks tend to, the requirement to use *only* your university email for most conversations is ridiculous. It's the sort of outdated norm that nobody has rethought because it only causes problems for people who aren't "important" in the right ways.

That said, I *exclusively* use my work email for communicating with students, and I think that's probably something one ought to do for so many reasons it's not worth enumerating them. But for all other aspects of my job (submitting papers, organizing conferences, contacting speakers for the logic supergroup (\begin{selfpromotion} which you should all totally be a part of \end{selfpromotion}), etc.) I use my personal email.

Laurence Bernard McCullough

The two comments above and the query assume, falsely, that college/university faculty are free agents. They are not. When we accept employment, we agree to be bound by the college/university's policies. It is not ridiculous, because it is ethically impermissible, to violate freely undertaken obligations on the grounds that they are inconvenient or because of false beliefs about why these policies exist. And faculty complain about increasing administrative costs, some of which are incurred to clean up preventable messes created by faculty who do not fulfill the freely accepted terms of their employment.


For teaching and administration - issues connected specifically to the institution I happen to currently be at, I use my university email. However, for al aspects of my work that I will continue to do regardless of who happens to be paying my salary, I use my own email. In part, it is for the reasons raised above - I move around when I get the desire, and don't want to have to reset everything whenever I decide to change schools.

However, I also do not wish my university to have access to all of my academic correspondences, discussions with collaborators,, etc. And I certainly do not wish the governments in some of the countries where I have worked to have access to that material, which has been a live worry for me in the past.

Jonathan Ichikawa

I am officially required to use my work email for work business. I have never heard of someone at UBC being sanctioned for violating this policy, but in theory that could happen. Maybe it has. I try to do most things "by the book" to protect myself from the possible situation of someone motivated against me having an easy time finding excuses.

Like most academics, the line between work and non-work is pretty blurry for me. I don't think my employer has ever articulated where they take it to fall for the purpose of using work email. (It is not in their interest to describe our work in an expansive way, as it would have labour law implications for some of us.) My personal policy is to use my UBC email for all teaching business and for official administrative roles. I only give my work email to students.

I use my personal email to talk research with colleagues, to handle journal refereeing business, to submit papers to journals, etc. When people invite me to give talks, I prefer that this come through my personal email, because it's convenient and more easily searchable. (I explain this on my website.) I'm sort of engaging in the fiction that these elements are not work — they certainly are, but they're work that is connected less specifically to my role within my institution.

The FIPPA consideration is a real one. In Canada we have a different acronym, but the same responsibility to the public, and things are much simpler if the things I'm doing as part of the university are happening within the university's servers. UBC is a public institution whose records are subject to public inspection; I personally am not. If I did official business under my personal email address, some of that material would be discoverable, which is an awkward position to be in. (In Canada there are also laws about the storage of confidential information — student records, for instance — on foreign servers, which would include e.g. gmail.)

The FIPPA issue is not an idle or trivial matter. I have been subjected to freedom of information requests three times in my ten years at UBC.


Much like others here:

(1) University e-mail account for all internal university correspondence, including communications with students, admin, and colleagues at my institution. Sometimes for journal submissions.

(2) Personal/professional e-mail account (myname@gmail.com) for communication with colleagues outside my institution, most journal submissions, and other extramural activities that I do not need my government to access.

(3) Personal e-mail account (goofyname@gmail.com) for e-mails with relatives, non-academic friends, and shopping.

Early on, I used my university account for all work-related stuff. I got burned badly once when I switched jobs and access to my institutional account was cut off with no warning (literally like a week after I left). Since they didn't delete the account, e-mails did not bounce back, and I missed some rather important e-mails regarding journal submissions.

a perspective from the precariat

Laurence Bernard McCullough: I think you may be the one making false assumptions. University policies on email use vary by institution, and there's no reason for you to think that the OP, Shay Logan, or I are violating the terms of our employment by using personal email for some academic purposes. We're also not advocating that others do so, thereby creating "messes" for administrators.
What's at issue here are informal norms about using personal email, not official university email policy. Such norms are harmful and unreasonable, and we should talk about those harms so that the norms can change. In short, people shouldn't be email snobs.
And yes, if your employment contract says, "use your university email for X, Y, and Z," you should probably do so.

Daniel Weltman

I use my work email for everything but I probably shouldn't, because it ends in ".in" and I think sometimes spam filters destroy the emails I send because they have a policy of nuking everything from India. I am not sure how often this happens, but I know for sure it has happened at least once, because The Philosopher's Index emailed me asking for bibliography details so they could index one of my articles, and when I replied, the email bounced back with a notification that all emails from Indian domains are blocked. If I eventually started using a personal email for stuff (like cold emailing people to say something about some of their writing, so I can tell if someone ignores me vs. if someone is maybe just not getting my emails) I'd hate to hear people were holding it against me!


"I will sometimes get an email back from someone, an individual or an editor, and they will send it to my university email, even though I have only emailed from my personal address. It feels like a rebuke."

This specific phenomenon the OP mentions just sounds really weird to me, and I've never experienced it even though I use my personal email with journals. I'm wondering what the individuals/editors are going for here - maaaybe they're being (overly) careful about verifying identity/affiliation?


Laurence Bernard McCullough: You seem to assume (falsely in the case of my university) that I am contractually required to use university email for all correspondences related to any work for which the university pays me.

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