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F&M alum sues college over ending lifelong email address, claims business, personal impact

  • By Dan Nephin/LNP | LancasterOnline
A gate on the campus of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

 PA Post

A gate on the campus of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

A Franklin & Marshall College alumnus has gone to court to try to force the school to continue offering students a lifelong email address through the school.

Ryan Thomas, of Madison, Connecticut, claims the college is in breach of contract by discontinuing alumni email accounts with the domain, which the school notified them in August it would do as of Dec. 1.

Thomas is representing himself in a suit filed Nov. 30 in Lancaster County Court. He writes in the suit that he was unable to find a lawyer to take his case.

Thomas was offered the email while attending F&M in 2012. “‘Email-for-life accounts were explicitly guaranteed never to expire, and to include google drive storage,” his suit says.

Thomas did not respond to messages left at the phone number listed on his lawsuit. Thomas writes that he filed suit after numerous efforts to persuade school officials not to end the alumni email accounts, including visiting the school in late November at “great financial, psychological and personal strain.”

An F&M spokesperson said the school doesn’t comment on litigation.

Although Thomas isn’t seeking monetary damages, he contends losing the email address has business and personal costs.

Thomas says in the suit that he solicits potential clients informally and sporadically and mostly in social settings, so it can often be months or even years until someone contacts him about hiring him.

“Due to this, (Thomas) … would lose the opportunity to be contacted by dozens if not hundreds of potential clients, with no way to estimate the costs of each client lost,” Thomas wrote in the suit.

Furthermore, Thomas argues that losing the F&M email domain would prevent the opportunity to repair relationships.

“Plaintiff is, regrettably, and on many counts, a flawed person. As such, having formed strong relationships and deep, romantic relationships, with multiple persons over the past decade, plaintiff has on multiple occasions, caused an emotional rift to form between himself and some friends and partners,” Thomas writes.

But because he had the F&M email, he argues, they always knew how to contact him, having told them, “should they ever wish to contact him again, to do so through this email, as it would never change or close.”

And people do reconnect with him through that email address. He writes: “Such occasions have resulted in greatly impactful and valuable conversations, and in three cases, the temporary resuming of friendships. In one case, this resuming appears now to be permanent.”

Losing his F&M email, he argues, is a “breaking off of his word (that) would likely quash any fledgling attempt at reconnection by an ex-friend or partner.”

Other schools dropping, too

Though LNP | LancasterOnline could not locate a similar suit, other colleges have dropped their similar lifelong emails service, including William & Mary, Florida State University and University of California at Davis. Ending the services has sometimes prompted online petitions pleading with the schools to keep them. Such a petition was started by an F&M alumnus in August and signed by more than 1,800 people, though it had a goal of 2,500.

Inside Higher Ed, which reports on higher education issues, wrote in July that schools are ending the perk following a change in Google’s digital storage offerings. The article says Google began offering free storage to colleges in the mid-2000s but announced in 2021 that it would be eliminating the free program.

While Google did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, a spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed for its article that storage consumption has increased.

Ryan Chreist, executive director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s alumni association, said in the same article that some institutions estimate maintaining the accounts will cost millions.

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