Was disabling Teams chats a good idea?

New chats between students are no longer allowed.


Illustration by Hannah Lesner

Abby Williams, Managing Editor

On Jan. 10, Utica Community Schools disabled the ability for students to create new chats with other students on Microsoft Teams, and our news staff does not agree with this decision.

The decision only affects new conversations, so students still have the ability to send messages to people they have messaged in the past, but cannot contact people they have not messaged on Teams before. New chats were disabled district-wide due to students using Teams for inappropriate things, such as bullying.

This change has had a huge, negative impact on the newspaper and yearbook staffs. Messaging students on Teams was extremely helpful for interviewing students, especially students that were absent from school or quarantined.

We have deadlines that we have to meet, and being unable to contact someone that we need to talk to can make things really stressful.

We also used Teams to message students that were in the virtual academy, as we obviously were not able to interview them in-person.

Yes, we could send out emails to students we need to speak to, but let’s be real: most students do not check their email very often.

Some of our staff is conflicted on whether they fully disagree with the decision or not. They recognize how much this rule impacts us, but they also see why something had to be done.

They believe that Teams was a privilege given to us to help with school being impacted by the pandemic, but it was abused by students and should rightfully be taken away.

Some students were being randomly messaged by kids in the district that they don’t know, or were being added to group chats with random people (one of our editors was added into a group chat with a few second graders and frequently called by them, for example). Taking away the ability to message students you haven’t communicated with before fixed all of these problems.

Teams was not introduced to UCS as a messaging platform; it was meant for remote classes and to allow students to message their teachers through something other than email. Since chatting with students wasn’t a reason why Teams was brought to UCS, they argue that students can’t complain about losing something they were never promised in the first place.

People who made the policy change probably took students in newspaper and yearbook into account, but ultimately didn’t know what else to do other than disabling chat.

They also argue that the staff in the past didn’t have things like Teams, so if they could do it, so can we. People who oppose the decision counter this by saying that it’s difficult to adapt to one way of doing things when you’re used to a different way.

None of our staff fully agrees with the decision, however. Some of us wish that different options were explored other than completely disabling it, but others argue that if those that oppose the decision can’t think of an alternative, then they shouldn’t complain.

All of us recognize how this has impacted students in newspaper and yearbook, but we’ll work around this obstacle one way or another.