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Rationale/Purpose of the Policy

The university provides electronic communications resources to support its mission of teaching, research, public service, advancement, and constituent engagement. Communications shall be coordinated to provide relevant and timely information to the appropriate audiences and crafted with the needs and preferences of the audience foremost.

UMass Amherst recognizes that faculty, staff, and students—as well as other important university constituents, such as families of students, prospective students, and alumni—have an interest in keeping their accounts free of emails that are unsolicited and perhaps, irrelevant to them. This policy is written with an understanding that all UMass Amherst communications are part of a larger network in which constituents represent multiple types and affiliations. Communicators shall recognize the depth and complexity of relationships that constituents have with UMass Amherst and shall use data, best practices, training, resources, and collaboration accordingly to create meaningful, engaging communications.


CAN-SPAM: The federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, which among other things, establishes national standards governing the transmission of commercial email.

Commercial email: A message that is not mission-critical to official university business and a recipient can opt in or opt out of receiving such a message

Constituent: Anyone with whom the university has a relationship, including but not limited to prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, family of students, donors and friends, strategic partners, government officials, and the media.

FERPA: The federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which, among other things, governs the conditions under which student records may be disclosed among university officials and to third parties.

Official communication: A communication to a constituent that provides essential information related to official university business. Such messages are deemed by the university mandatory. Examples are legally required training, class cancellations, or newsletters that update recipients on services central to the university’s mission, such as student wellness or a change in curriculum.

Transactional email: A message that is mission-critical to official university business and/or an official communication, and a recipient cannot opt out of receiving such a message.


This policy applies to all university units expected to conduct mass communications and/or official communications on behalf of UMass Amherst and use university information technology resources. Mass communication is a message with primarily the same content or purpose that is sent to 100 or more recipients. Mass communications should pertain to official university business and be for the purposes of providing information, facilitating operations, or developing and maintaining relationships with the university’s constituents.

This policy does not apply to faculty. It does not apply to the conduct of faculty teaching, individual academic communications among faculty and students, and/or scholarly research.


  1. The university shall use electronic communications as an official means of communication to convey information to university constituents. Electronic communication often refers to email but may also include other forms of communication including but not limited to SMS/text or push notifications. This policy excludes web content and social media.
  2. Only authorized individuals or units expected to conduct engagement communications and/or official communications on behalf of UMass Amherst are covered under this policy. Such communications are for a legitimate and strategic purpose of providing information, facilitating operations, or developing and maintaining relationships with the university’s constituents.
  3. For the purposes of communications, all constituents have a relationship primarily with the university, and not with any individual unit or subset of the university. Engagement with constituents should be governed primarily by whether such engagement benefits the university, and secondarily, by whether it benefits any unit or program. University data stewards will act on behalf of the university to make institutional data available only to authorized individuals or units. Those individuals and units are responsible for the messages they send.
  4. Individual constituents and constituent groups are managed by university officials or offices for the purposes of relationships and communications, and such assignments are governed by major constituent characteristics (e.g., student, faculty, staff, etc.). Constituent groups include:
    1. students (prospective, applicants, admitted, enrolled or on probation)
    2. faculty
    3. staff
    4. Advancement (alumni, donors, and prospective donors)
    5. families of students
    6. political and government entities
    7. research, contracts, and grants (including collaborators, research subjects, and research sponsors)
    8. campus strategic partners, such as the companies that recruit and hire our students and alumni
    9. other constituents with a relationship or potential relationship with UMass Amherst
  5. Individuals given access to constituent information for the purpose of communication must ensure that the communication will not alienate the constituent, undermine other activities involving the constituent, or otherwise be detrimental to the interests of the university. Individuals and units must comply with any applicable state and federal laws governing the appropriate use and confidentiality of constituent information, including but not limited to constituent preferences, and where applicable, FERPA, HIPAA, and CAN-SPAM. Legal requirements may apply based on the characteristics of the constituent group (e.g., location, age, student status); the method of communication (e.g., texting, email), and/or the reason for the communication (e.g., to obtain or share health information or financial information).
  6. The university shall own all constituent data, regardless of where it is housed or the unit that creates/maintains it. This data may be shared with broader audiences for the purpose of improving engagement with constituent groups.
  7. Individuals and units given access to constituent information pursuant to this policy must comply with other applicable university policies and practices governing the use, safeguarding, and retention of institutional data.
  8. Mass communications must whenever possible, be sensitive to constituent preferences. However, the university retains the right to communicate transactional messages to all constituents. The university or campus has the authority to control communications that are in violation of this policy or in violation of any compliance requirements.
  9. This policy, including all procedures, is to be adhered to regardless of media, system, service, or method of communication.
    1. Accessibility, Branding, and Preferred Platform Communications shall be crafted to respect accessibility concerns and meet university standards. All mass emails must meet university brand guidelines and be clearly branded with the appropriate logo approved by University Relations.
    2. Information Technology and University Relations maintain and support a single preferred communications platform. This secure platform protects operational integrity and constituent data, and enables a high standard of quality in communications. All official communications must be sent via this platform.
    3. Access to the preferred communications platform requires FERPA certification and training in the communications platform prior to use.

Related UMass Amherst Policies

Alumni & Donor Data & Online Services Use Policy

Related UMass Amherst Documents

FERPA Certification

Emergency Notifications

University Accessibility 

UMass Amherst Public Records

External References

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business