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AOL glitch blocks Harvard admissions e-mails

January 1, 2002

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) — Dozens of e-mail messages telling Harvard University applicants whether they had been admitted never arrived last month after America Online interpreted the messages as junk e-mail.

"This wasn't exactly the instant response we intended," William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions and financial aid, told The Boston Globe.

After anthrax spores were mailed through the U.S. postal system, Harvard began using e-mail to inform applicants quickly of whether they had been rejected or accepted. E-mail was used to notify almost all of the 6,000 students who applied in the school's early admission process.

But for reasons that even AOL could not explain, the service blocked between 75 and 100 of the e-mails in December because the servers flagged the messages as "spam," the unwanted e-mails that clog users' mailboxes. The messages were bounced back to the university. (AOL Time Warner is the parent company of

"Spam is our number one problem. But it's hard to say what would have caused the system to filter e-mail from Harvard," AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said.

The problem proved to be more trouble for Harvard than it was for the students. Most just telephoned the admissions office to find out if they had been accepted.

Admissions officers plan to begin posting a notice on the college Web site telling students to make sure their Internet service doesn't block Harvard e-mail.

And, as ever, the college will continue to use the postal system to notify applicants.


Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.


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