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Bulk Email Approval Policies and Procedures


All members of the Northwestern Community and users of the University network.


Bulk email, by definition, is unsolicited email sent quickly in large quantities, and is recognized as an efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly use of technology for facilitating communication within the Northwestern community. Bulk email messages can be sent to a mailing list email addresses or a pre-defined target group, managed by LDAP. The potential misuse of bulk email is also recognized. The purpose of the following guidelines provide guidance for the appropriate use of bulk email at Northwestern University, and when necessary, the approval to send bulk email through the enterprise NU Bulk Email system.

Policy Statement:

The purpose of this guideline is to instruct users on appropriate use of bulk email and to provide recommendations on how to properly send bulk email messages in order to reduce recipient complaints and confusion, reinforce network security best practice and effectively and efficiently utilize campus resources.

University-wide distribution of email messages requires:

  • Identification of the target audience for the message.
  • Arranging distribution with the appropriate sender/s of bulk email.
  • Approval of the message (as discussed below).

Background Issues:

Guidelines and Criteria

Generally speaking, bulk email is appropriate for:

  • Messages that directly relate to carrying out the business of the University.
  • Messages that relate to changes in University policy or time sensitive issues.
  • Messages that inform a select group of people (e.g. faculty, staff, students, members of a specific school or department, etc.) of an announcement or event related to their specific role within the University.

Announcements that do not meet this criteria of urgency and/or critical University information, should seek other methods of relaying their information, such as the Plan-IT Purple Calendar, Daily Northwestern, Northwestern News, and other campus listservs.

Inappropriate use of Bulk Email includes, but is not limited to:

  • Messages that are not in line with the mission of the University
  • Messages that are personal in nature
  • Messages that are commercial in nature with the exception of those messages that are in support of University business and are approved by the stipulations defined in this policy.

Sending Bulk Email

To promote institutional operating efficiency and network security, the following guidelines are intended to prevent degrading of email services during working hours:

  • A bulk message should be brief, self-explanatory, clear, and concise, and should only be used for important messages relevant to all recipients.
  • Avoid sending frequent or repeated messages. Monthly or quarterly electronic newsletters are preferred.
  • Send collaborative messages with others at the University to avoid redundancy.
  • Avoid sending attachments as they take up more disk space and degrade server performance. A link to a Web site (URL) or a document sharing solution is preferred. If it is necessary to send attachments, the total message size should be under 5 MB.
  • Bulk email messages should be sent after 7 p.m., except in the case of time-sensitive messages. Messages sent to more than 10,000 recipients should be scheduled for delivery after midnight.
  • Messages sent by University email addresses must be consistent with existing University policies (See Use of Computers, Systems, and Networks).
  • Bulk email must NOT used for commercial advertisement purposes. Examples include:
    • Commercial advertising for merchants or service providers external to the University, except for notices of services and discounts arranged for members of the University community by the University.
    • Solicitations for contributions, charities, or participation in personal activities not related to University purposes or not sponsored by the University.
    • Solicitations for non-University businesses operated by University faculty or staff.
    • Surveys or solicitations to members of the community selected on demographic characteristics, such as to selected groups or individuals identified as candidates for research subjects.
    • Targeted audiences that might appear discriminatory or may appear to be infringement on privacy.
    • Offensive material.

Under certain limited circumstances, senders of email messages that advertise or promote a product, service, or program being offered by the University or by a third-party through the University, may be required to:

  1. Identify the message as an advertisement or a promotion;
  2. Include a valid physical mailing address in the body of the message, and;
  3. Provide the recipient with a way to decline to receive any additional messages that advertise or promote the product, service or program at issue.

These requirements typically apply when unsolicited emails are sent, either to groups of faculty, staff, students and/or alumni or to prospective students or members of the public, that include the advertisement or promotion of a product or service being offered by or through the University.

Authorizations and Approvals

Authorization to send bulk email is automatically granted in the following three cases:

  1. Local Authority

    Schools and academic departments are authorized to send messages to their students, faculty, or staff, without any further approvals.

  2. Official University Announcements

    Certain administrative departments that need to make periodic announcements to members of the Northwestern community are granted authority to send bulk email via the NU Bulk Email system, maintained by Northwestern IT Technology Support Services, for matters of University business. The following offices have been granted this authority through appropriate discussions and review with the bulk email ad-hoc committee.

    Target Groups (University-wide)

    Authorized Offices


    Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Northwestern University Information Technology, University Services, Office of the Registrar, Vice President for Student Affairs, Northwestern University Student Health Service, Department of University Relations, Facilities Management, University Police


    Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Northwestern University Information Technology, University Services, Vice President for Research, Human Resources, Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, Department of University Relations, Facilities Management, University Police


    Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Northwestern University Information Technology, University Services, Vice President for Research, Human Resources, Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, Department of University Relations, Facilities Management, University Police

  3. Emergency

    In a NU community-wide emergency, approval may be bypassed. As is detailed in Northwestern's Emergency Response Plan, emergency communications are coordinated by University Relations. The contact for emergency communications is Alan Cubbage, vice president for University Relations.


Requests to send out bulk email to the following University populations, that do not fall under the three cases outlined above, must be approved by the appropriate owning office. If they meet the criteria above, contact the IT Service Desk at, who will coordinate all requests. In some cases, a request may not be granted based upon the guidelines specified below.

Target Groups (University-wide)

Owning Office



Student Affairs


Office of the Provost


Human Resources

Guidelines for Approval to Students

In an effort to prevent the proliferation of unrequested email to students, the following guidelines will be used when a request is made to send bulk email to students:

  1. Each fall, students will be placed on a class-specific listserv (one for freshmen, one for sophomores, another for juniors, seniors, graduate and professional students). These listservs will be used by University offices and the class councils to notify students of class-specific events (e.g., Senior Week activities, freshman formal, sophomore symposium, Graduate Student Appreciation Week events) and/or to disseminate class-specific information (e.g., information about placement services to seniors). At the end of each message, information will be provided on how to unsubscribe from the listserv.
  2. The bulk email capability will not be used to advertise or market campus programs, activities or events. Other mechanisms are available for this purpose (e.g., Plan-IT Purple, Daily Northwestern, Northwestern News, and other campus listservs). Consult the assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students for more information regarding targeted listservs.
  3. The bulk email capability will seldom be used to distribute surveys to all students. However, students, faculty, and staff wishing to distribute surveys to students should consult the assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students regarding related policies and procedures for disseminating surveys.

Guidelines for Approval to Faculty

The Provost's Office has been charged with the responsibility of screening requests to send bulk email to all faculty members. Bulk email to faculty should be used primarily for announcements by the central administration regarding matters of University policy, changes in procedures, etc. Requests will generally not be granted to send messages that are essentially advertisements for lectures, seminars, or other similar programs. Business Units wishing to send such messages are encouraged to develop unit-specific lists of email addresses of faculty members with demonstrated interests in their programs.

Guidelines for Approval to Staff

Only Northwestern University employees, excluding contributed service or adjunct faculty, may request that a bulk email be sent to staff. Access to bulk email is made available for University purposes on a University-wide or unit-wide basis, as the purpose requires. Electronic mail addresses are not made available to persons or organizations outside of Northwestern University.

Selected notices and announcements of broad interest, usefulness, or need among staff are acceptable uses of bulk email. Such notices and announcements include, among others, those for:

  • Presidential announcements.
  • Emergency notices.
  • Expected street, traffic, and parking interruptions resulting from construction.
  • Services for general University use, such as travel and transportation.
  • Broadcasts of Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) service changes or updates.
  • University special events, such as, observances for Take Our Daughters to Work Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Commencement Day, and Move-in Day.
  • Other announcements or news reports affecting the community or the University.

Departments obtaining lists in the form of electronic files to use for an approved mailing to staff are to comply with this policy on subsequent uses of the same list for additional mailings.

Seeking authorization to approve bulk email communication

Requests to be granted authorization to send bulk email messages, using NU Bulk Email, can be emailed to by a dean, director, or department head. Requests should include who would be authorized to send the message, the justification for requiring the service, and the target group.