Moderated Email Lists for Engineering Departments

A moderated email distribution service is available to Michigan Engineering departments for University business:

  • Using listserver software, operated by CAEN
  • Several advantages for departments who use CAEN’s departmental service over MCommunity groups:
    • Moderators are notified when a message awaits approval
    • Message footers can be applied automatically to approved messages
    • Messages can be rejected, either with a notice to the sender, or without notice (in the case of spam)
    • Not subject to email header spoofing because all messages are vetted by human moderators
    • Messages can be approved or denied using any web browser
  • Mail can be sent to an address and be distributed to recipients only after approval from designated, authenticated administrators.
  • Departments will need to designate list administrators and moderators who will maintain list membership and approve messages for distribution, respectively
  • Contact CAEN to request a demo, or to have new lists created for your department.

Many Michigan Engineering departments maintain email lists to communicate University business with faculty, staff, students, and other affiliates. Often, these lists exist as groups in Mcommunity, giving administrative personnel an easy way to update group membership. While Mcommunity provides some rudimentary features for email moderation, it has been shown to have inherent risks, namely the ability of any malicious person to fraudulently spoof the address of a list moderator and have inappropriate content delivered to group members.

To provide departments with more control over the messages distributed to their audiences, Michigan Engineering departments may request that their lists be added to CAEN’s moderated email service, provided that departmental personnel are identified who will operate the list, moderate messages, and keep list membership up to date.

Because the system is moderated — any message sent to a designated address is first held in a queue for moderators to review and approve before distribution — the system is not subject to some of the risks associated with Mcommunity groups. Even if someone with malicious intent forges the “From:” address in a message, all messages must first be approved explicitly before they will be distributed. Moderators are given an opportunity to read all messages and make a decision of whether to distribute, reject, or discard a message.

An additional side effect of moderation is that “forum” style communications cannot be easily accommodated with this system. If message recipients reply to a message sent from the system, each reply must be moderated, discarded, or rejected separately. This does help prevent “email storms” that might otherwise arise from recipients using the “Reply All” feature of an email client.

The listserver software offers many additional advantages over Mcommunity groups:

Moderator Features
When a message awaits moderation, anyone designated as a moderator will receive notification that a message awaits approval. This helps to make sure all messages are reviewed promptly and that no messages are missed. Should a moderator decide that a message is not appropriate for distribution, they have the option either to delete it without giving notice to the sender (e.g. if a message is spam), or to reject it with notice to the sender (via an automated reply).

Highly Configurable
The system has many optional customizations. Administrators can enable or disable numerous features, including adding custom message headers and footers, automatically adding a prefix to message subjects, filtering (or blocking) attachments, setting “Reply-To” addresses, adding additional message headers, and more. Upon setup, CAEN will initialize your list(s) with recommended settings. List administrators can then change settings as appropriate for their departmental needs.

Easy to Use
Those who wish to send a message to your list need only send an email, exactly as they wish it to appear, to the address you specify. An Mcommunity group must be designated for this purpose, but any Mcommunity group can be used, including those that already exist. Once set up, any email sent to the designated Mcommunity group will be routed to the listserver and moderators will begin receiving notifications that messages await review.

Membership Management
Administrators can easily add and remove members from their lists using a web interface. It is possible to prevent users from unsubscribing to your list, or to allow them to unsubscribe. Note that if your list allows members to unsubscribe, it is your department’s responsibility to keep track of who has unsubscribed when you perform list membership updates later on.

Only designated administrators or moderators are granted access to their lists. Each list can have a different set of administrators and moderators, and a password must be entered before administration or moderation can occur. The administrative control panels are encrypted with HTTPS, so all information is conveyed securely.

Departments must designate list administrators and moderators who will maintain list membership and approve messages for distribution, respectively. To request a demonstration of this service, contact CAEN. A CAEN staff member will reach out to you to schedule a demonstration and discuss next steps.