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UC Berkeley announces bovine mail delivery to replace failing email system

Written By: daveski on December 5, 2011 5 Comments

Following a series of recent service outages impacting CalMail, the UC Berkeley email system, Berkeley’s Information Services and Technology organization (IST) announced Monday that it was implementing a major change in communications technology, effective immediately. Dubbed “CowMail,” the new system will involve rapidly phasing out email and other forms of electronic communication in favor of sending printed documents between buildings on the backs of specially trained cows.

CowMail_noframeAttributing the aging email system’s repeated server crashes and hardware failures to “the ongoing budget crisis and a pervasive lack of funding for staffing and equipment maintenance,” campus associate vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer Shelton Waggener announced that it was time for a “paradigm shift” in how information moves around the campus. “The students are fed up. Faculty members are exasperated. And even our own staff are saying things I’d rather not repeat here.”

IST had already been planning to migrate CalMail’s approximately 70,000 users off the campus system in 2012, according to a recent article in student-run newspaper The Daily Californian. “We were originally planning on farming out our communications needs to a major corporation like Microsoft or Google,” Waggener explained. “But, after extensive consultations with Chancellor Birgeneau, EVCP Breslauer, and IT officials at other UC campuses, we have decided to bring the farm directly to Berkeley,” he added.

The use of cows or other large agricultural animals for mail delivery at a major research university would be unprecedented, experts say. When questioned about the motivations behind CowMail, campus administrators pointed to the examples of homing pigeons used by the ancient Persians and Greeks, dogs in Canada and Alaska during the Gold Rush, and the Pony Express in the years before the American Civil War. “We view the new CowMail system as fully in line with Berkeley’s longstanding efforts to recognize our rich American cultural heritage, while also demonstrating our global interconnectivity,” Birgeneau was reported as saying. “Plus, we figured that people were already pretty familiar with cow-style mailboxes.”

Amidst doubts about the sudden decision and its impact upon campus life, IST maintains that original plans were to solicit proposals for alternative mail delivery systems from students via the annual Big Ideas @ Berkeley competition, but that repeated CalMail server crashes since November 25 made lengthy deliberation impossible. Waggener noted, “We’ve already begun training our first fleet of CowMail carriers and silkscreened the ‘Moo! Now UC the Mail’ logos onto the burlap sacks. Initial routes will be tested during RRR week, haystations will be installed at ten campus locations in January, and full operational excellence should be achieved by Spring 2014.”

An informal survey of students, faculty, and staff pointed to substantial doubts about the viability of CowMail; IST representatives requested that, in order not to place further load on the CalMail system, those with questions should contact them via Twitter or, alternatively, “just swing by.”

Note from FIT administrators: The contents of this post, and the quotes ascribed to the individuals named herein, are fictional. No cows were harmed in the process.

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5 Responses to “UC Berkeley announces bovine mail delivery to replace failing email system”

  1. Jane on: 5 December 2011 at 8:22 pm
  2. tim on: 6 December 2011 at 11:33 am


  3. Sandy on: 7 December 2011 at 11:01 am

    And the calmail debacle is only the first example of the cows coming home to Operational Excellence policy of stripping the campus infrastructure. Sure that hay isn’t too expensive to provide?

  4. CIO on: 7 December 2011 at 5:03 pm

    As Campus CIO I fully endorse having contingency plans in place.

  5. David on: 7 December 2011 at 7:51 pm

    This is a sustainable, and green, mail system, and with the help of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will create enough energy through methane gas generation to help the campus with its enormous utility bill.


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