The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday September 17th

'Unsubscribe': Romance studies Listserv spammed with hundreds of emails

DTH Photo Illustration. A student reads emails from the ROML Listserv on her laptop.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. A student reads emails from the ROML Listserv on her laptop.

French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese are just a few examples of romance languages — but the conversation in the romance studies Listserv was anything but romantic. 

On Friday, May 28, students subscribed to the romance studies Listserv were bombarded with hundreds of emails.

The romance studies Listserv is used to distribute academic information about courses and study abroad programs to students enrolled in romance studies courses.

Ashley Logue, a first-year political science major, said the incident started when someone asked to be removed from the Listserv with “reply all” enabled. Hundreds of additional emails were then sent in the same chain, and new chains were created.

“Tons of other people were asking to be unsubscribed,” she said. “People then started exchanging social media and talking about memes.”

But the emails didn’t stop that evening. Recent graduate Cameryn Gonzalez-Gibbs said the nonstop notifications continued well into Monday night.

“My phone was bugging out because I had never got that many notifications so consistently before,” she said. “It had been vibrating for ten minutes straight.”

The massive influx of emails made viewing any other exchanges on Outlook impossible. Logue said she couldn’t tell if any important information was hidden in between the email chain notifications.

Students are signed up for Listservs automatically based on the classes they have taken, regardless of whether or not they have a major or minor in the subject. 

Yet some students were unaware they were on the romance studies Listserv until the spam began. Biology major Case Redmond said he didn’t understand why he was on the Listserv in the first place. 

“I was automatically put on it even though I am not a romance studies major,” Redmond said.

Gonzalez-Gibbs said two GroupMe chats were created in an attempt to deter people from using the email chain as a message board. However, this diversion ultimately proved to be ineffective.

“People kept emailing to be unsubscribed even after people explained that it doesn’t work like that,” she said. “It was clear that it was emailing over a thousand students and not solving any problem.”

Despite the inconveniences it posed at the time, Gonzalez-Gibbs said the email chain was an incident that was able to be laughed off.

“If I could say anything to the person who started the email chain, I would say you definitely left your mark at UNC in a very unique and hilarious way,” she said.

On June 1, Amy Chambless sent an email to the Listserv apologizing for the incident and stating that the reply settings have now been fixed so that recipients will no longer be able to "reply-all."

"We can assure you that no other message will be sent out to this list until it is updated in Fall with new students enrolled in our courses," Chambless said. "However, anyone still wishing to unsubscribe from the list (aka, "leave the distribution group") can do so for themselves."

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