Saxa Politica: HoyaMail: no one’s perfect

September 3, 2009

It’s the start of another school year. Time to organize your dorm room, buy your books, and buddy up with an unfamiliar Resident Advisor. But this year, there’s one more thing to get used to: Georgetown’s new Internet services.

The debuts of MyGeorgetown and HoyaMail, along with the switch from StudentAccess to MyAccess last spring, “reflect a larger strategic goal to provide students with updated Internet based services that support mobility, ubiquitious use, easy access, and a modern web experience,” University Information Services Director Beth Ann Bergsmark said.

The new services succeed in providing a modern web experience. The interfaces of both MyGeorgetown and HoyaMail now seem up-to-date, unlike the previous, creaky GUMail and the student section of the Georgetown website. Freshman Caroline Palmer (COL ‘13) dealt with an IMAP account for less than three months, but already finds HoyaMail a refreshing change.

“HoyaMail is really convenient,” she said. “I think pretty much everyone seems to have a Gmail account, and they know how to use it already, so it’s not that much of a transition.” Palmer also said she liked the way MyGeorgetown brought important information together in one place.

But MyGeorgetown and HoyaMail are less effective in supporting mobility and easy access. Many students have expressed frustration that HoyaMail cannot be accessed through desktop or PDA email clients, including Zach Louderback (COL ‘12).

“It’s terrible,” he said. “I like Gmail and how it’s set up, but if I could get it directly through my phone, it would be way more convenient.”

In order to allow Louderback or any Georgetown student to access HoyaMail through an email client, UIS would have had to share their NetIDs and passwords with Google. That may make Hoyamail more convenient, but according to Bergsmark, it is “very unlikely” to happen.

“This is a very important security concern for GU,” Bergsmark said. “There is great value in students having one unique identifier and secure password to access all their services, but then the security of that ID/password becomes greater.”

The security concern is noted, but it puts HoyaMail directly at odds with its goals to expand access and mobility. At the end of the month, when the University forms a working group to consider the addition of Google Applications to student services, it has the chance to prove its commitment to those goals.

Unfortunately, MyGeorgetown and MyAccess make information even more difficult to obtain by making students go through counterintuitive or repetitive menus, like the five-step maze (complete with two log-in screens) that leads you to your schedule. The simpler one-click “view schedule of classes” from the MyGeorgetown home screen gives you the times of all classes at Georgetown, not your own week.

Getting the hang of MyAccess, MyGeorgetown, and HoyaMail may have you feeling like a freshman again. But if you learned the impossible ins-and-outs of the old system, you’ll get the hang of this one too. And maybe by next year, this clumsy system will feel more like home.

Support mobility, ubiquitous use, and easy access. Email Lillian at


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