Innovative CUIT Introduces New Email Aliases

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Like Jennifer Garner (, but a little less threatening.
Like Jennifer Garner (, but a little less threatening.

Like Jennifer Garner (, but a little less threatening.

CUIT emailed Morningside campus students today with information about our new email aliases. CUIT says that they “heard and understood” the concern that “UNI-based email addresses are impersonal and can seem unprofessional in certain contexts.”

For all returning students and incoming freshmen, the aliases will take the form of “<Initials of First and Middle + Last Name><UNI#>” (emphasis CUIT’s). So, for example, CUIT tried other methods that would have made the aliases seem more personal/professional but found that there were too many “collisions,” or combinations that, with the UNI removed, would be exact matches. 

Disclaimer: You can use your alias for email and communication purposes (email will automatically be forwarded to your LionMail) but don’t forget your UNI just yet—you’ll need it to log in to LionMail and every other University log-on, including printing. 

Dear Morningside Students,

We are pleased to share that, in response to feedback from many of you, we have built and enabled for each of you a new, more user-friendly email alias, an alternate address that automatically forwards to your UNI-based email.

Recent conversations with student leadership and advisory groups indicated that UNI-based email addresses are impersonal and can seem unprofessional in certain contexts. We heard and understood this concern.

Considering the size of the University and the fact that alumni keep email addresses for life, we needed a system that would ensure unique aliases. With this in mind, we used the following method to generate your new alias:

  • For every current and incoming student, a friendly email address is being created from each student’s name as stored in CU’s Student Information System.

  • To limit the possibility of collisions, email aliases are constructed as:

<Initials of First and Middle + Last Name><UNI#>

For example, the UNI “smc20” translates to “”

We considered several other formats, but each posed significant problems:

  • Why not <first initial><last name>?

  • UNIs zz2321 and zz2257 -> zzhuang

  • 8866 collisions out of 40,000 student UNIs

  • Why not <first initial><last name><GradYear>?

    • UNIs aa3443 and aa3311 -> aarora2014

    • 4009 collisions out of 40,000 student UNIs

  • Why not <first initial><last name><UNI#>?

    • UNIs acg2169 and aag2169 -> agonzalez2169

    • 67 collisions out of 40,000 student UNIs

We shared our recommendation on the address format with student leaders, and having received positive feedback, we proceeded with the development of this service.

Using Your New Alias

The recent assignments of student aliases were accompanied by an automated email notification with the subject, “We have created an email alias that reflects your name.”

  • You may choose to display this identity in the University directory instead of your UNI-based email address by going to and clicking on “Student Email Alias.”

  • There is no impact to the continued use of your UNI-based email address.  All existing distribution lists, processes and emails will continue to work as they do today.

  • You may now send and receive mail from either or both addresses:

  • The UNI is still the only ID used to log in to services, including email. The new friendlier email alias will not work as a login ID.

  • We unfortunately cannot accept requests to alter the format of this email address, unless you request from the University Registrar a name change that would result in a different student email alias. See

Again, we are pleased to be able to provide this new feature. If you have any questions, please write to us at


Candace Fleming
Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Columbia University Information Technology

Medha Bhalodkar

Our favorite femme fatale via FanPop

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  1. uh c/o 2018

    Why don't other schools have these collision problems?

    • annonny  

      My guess would be that we get to keep our email addresses forever, after we graduate.

      • yup

        exactly this - I can't remember where I saw it, but there was a whole document that CUIT put together when considering aliases a while ago that looked at how other schools treat their emails. for example, yale requires that you set up a new "alumni" forwarder that may or may not be able to accommodate the firstnamelastname that they default to for students. (it's also so less convenient)

  2. ugh  

    What CUIT needs to understand is the problem are these long, annoying, random numbers. Adding stuff to a UNI doesn't solve ANYONE's problem.

    UNIs are themselves aliases for even longer and more complicated user IDs, and this is true of any application. So why not just let us pick our own aliases?

    Other universities do it and don't have collision problems. Hell, Facebook and Gmail do it too, and don't have problems even with hundreds of millions of users.

    • hey

      I think the reason they don't just let us "have at it" (ie, let us pick our own alias in a first-come first-served way) is that it would lead to potentially silly names in front of "". I can respect CUIT's position that is a bit of a sacred thing (remember the scene about in the movie The Social Network?) and so we don't want people going out in the finance/business/science/etc fields with official school emails like "" or "".

      As for the attempts of some to make this into a trans* issue, I'd say that you can call yourself whatever you want in everyday life, you can tell people to call you by a name other than your legal name, etc. But when it comes to official matters, there is an open legal process for having your name changed on your legal documentation. Columbia shouldn't be worried about trying to be its own micro-nation; the states and Feds take care of questions like that.

      • Anonymous

        A review process for emails that seem to have nothing to do with their user's first and last name would not be difficult to implement.

      • omG


      • a solution

        that has been implemented in some universities would be that we get a choice of usernames, but based on our names only.

        For example,

        students can then have the option to add their grad year or birth year or even UNI numbers behind.

        if an existing combination is already taken (ie another Joseph Smith has jsmith@), then that option would be greyed out.

  3. Anonymous

    some shitlord literally raped me the other day right on campus. he held my hand when I was drunk. I'm going to press charges bc I know this toxic rape-culture loving campus won't do anything about it. ugh, disgusting.

  4. Anonymous

    am i the only one who preferred UNIs to this?

    "friendly address"


  5. cc15  

    So these are exactly the same as the ones they introduced a couple weeks ago, right?

  6. fsjd  

    Why cant transgender people just pick new names with the same initials as before? The world shouldnt have to change because one small group wont wavier from their ideology. Its like the nazis killing off the non Aryans because they believed Aryans were a master race. Did the whole world change because the nazis wanted them to? NO. Should we change because the transgenders want us to? NO.

    • What the fuck

      I get that you think you have a really thoughtful comment but don't fucking compare anybody to the Nazi's - least of all a marginalized portion of society. I'm not even particularly sensitive to this shit since I'm lucky enough that marginalization of the transgender community really doesn't tangibly affect me day to day but what the fuck.

      Do even understand what the nazi's did? These are people that put others in barometric chambers just to watch them die through lack of air pressure which makes your fucking blood boil. They would cut off the arms of twins just to fucking see what happens. There are families that could have lived beside your ancestors that were completely erased - forgotten forever.

      I understand the point you are trying to make where the minority should not strong arm the majority - I don't agree but I understand - but fucking educate yourself and understand what you are saying. How impressively thick headed could you be. Even as a troll that's insane.

  7. Samuel Henry Ithead

    I for one object to these new aliases.

  8. Anonymous

    How is it that CUIT is so stupid? Why do CC and other schools use them for mail services? Here's a solution. Use sub-domains for each school, like every competent IT group at every other Ivy League. For example:

    Not that fucking complicated.

    Get rid of this bullshit random number crap.

  9. Anonymous

    Anything Columbia does takes the path of least effort. I'm always surprised when I visit other places. Your university cares about you more than about how easy you are to manage? Wow.

  10. Honestly Confused

    As to how people don't understand the benefit of it. Don't like it? Don't change your damn uni then! They're not making you do anything, they're just giving you the option of having your actual name in your email so it doesn't look like an unintelligible series of numbers and letters.

  11. alum

    Why does Bwog censor comments with profanity?

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