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Spam filter leads to students unenrolled in spring classes

Ohio University students have been dealing with unwanted clutter — but not in their dorm rooms. 

Some students using Catmail have reported trouble finding emails they’ve been sent on the Microsoft-based email host recently.

The problem stems from a new AI system called "Clutter," which is supposed to sort out low-priority and spam messages based on which emails users usually open and which they don’t.

That has resulted in some important emails being filed away automatically into a spam folder marked “Clutter.”

The AI has already caused serious problems for some students.

“I had a very important email from Bursar sent to my spam instead of my inbox,” Kirsten Cupach, a junior studying journalism, said. “I never saw the email and the balance went unpaid. I was forcibly dropped from all the classes I had enrolled in during registration and had to redo my schedule after the unpaid balance had been taken care of.”

Annie Kelty, a freshman studying special education moderate to intensive, had an almost identical problem.

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“They sent my billing into Clutter and I got unenrolled from all my spring classes because of it,” Kelty said. “I never got any emails about (Clutter); I found it after (the Bursar) told me to double check my student email.”

Though the software rolled out last June, it may take some time before it has gathered enough data to start sorting out emails, Sean O’Malley, OIT communications manager, said.

“It might take a certain amount of time before it starts putting things in Clutter,” O’Malley said. “I personally hadn’t noticed it until a couple months ago but that might not be the case for everyone. There are a lot of Outlook users on campus.”

He also added that because the problem is a standard feature of the Outlook web client, IT cannot disable it by default. However, it can easily be done by students individually.


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