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Frequently Asked Questions About ListServ

These questions are frequently asked by the Drexel community concerning ListServ and broadcast email communication. This page is a work-in-progress—more questions and answers will be provided as they come up.

Don't see your question below, or still need help? Contact us!

What is a ListServ list?

Think of a ListServ list as something like a relay station for email. Each list contains any number of email addresses “subscribed” to it, and this list can be updated as necessary to add or remove addresses. When someone wants to send an email message to everyone subscribed on the list, he/she sends it to only one address: the ListServ list’s email address, not the subscribers’ addresses. ListServ takes the one message and distributes copies of it to each individual subscribed to the list.

What types of ListServ lists are available?

There are several different types of mailing lists that perform different functions. Numerous options are available for configuring these lists, so if you don't see an option you need on the How to Request a List page, contact Mass Mailing team.

Announcement Lists

Announcement lists, also known as broadcast lists, are great for newsletters, event information, and other one-way communications.

Discussion Lists

Discussion lists can be private (owners/subscribers only) or public (anyone). These lists are useful for discussion within student organizations, class discussions between instructors and students, or discussions between staff members within a department.

"Special" Lists

Sometimes a list owner will need to send out messages to a list that is composed of a different group of subscribers each time. If the list owner is comfortable with subscribing and unsubscribing recipients, he/she can request the creation of a blank, or “special,” list. Such a list is essentially an empty matrix where the list owner can add or delete a list of addresses as necessary.

What about lists and privacy concerns?

Have you ever received a message with scores or hundreds of addresses visible in the "To" field? Some recipients object strenuously to the visibility of their email addresses. To them, this visibility is both an invasion of privacy and raw material for someone else's spam list. ListServ lists, on the other hand, only show the list's email address and not the individual addresses subscribed to it.

What is an “email command”?

Email commands are used in one of two methods for managing a ListServ list. These commands are Unix commands emailed directly to ListServ ( to tell it what to do with a list: add subscribers, delete subscribers, send back the addresses of subscribers on the list, and more. Because ListServ is an automated system, the spelling and line breaks for each command in the message body must be exact. ListServ can only read plain text messages line by line. For more information, see Email Commands.

Why did ListServ reject my email command?

ListServ will reject email commands if the commands come from an email address it does not recognize as a list owner. ListServ is extremely picky about the format of owner addresses to prevent malicious individuals from messing with your lists and ensure that the email commands really came from you. Drexel can make this recognition by ListServ a bit tricky, since members of the Drexel community have two, and sometimes even three, formats for one email account:,, and (official address, username address, and personal alias address). ListServ will sometimes see one or the other format in the message header, but if ListServ rejects the email command, the error message will tell you which format it sees. That format can then be added by the Mass Mailing team to your lists as a list owner.

I want to manage my ListServ lists with an email address specific for the purpose. How do I request a new email account?

New email accounts can be requested by sending an email to the Accounts team at Include the following information in your request: name of the account (what you want the address to be), the owner of the account, and what the account will be used for. If the Accounts team approves the request, the new email account will be added to the owner’s accounts management page at The new account, once it is ready, can be picked up at that page and will not be active until the owner has done so.

Can I include attachments with my message to a ListServ list?

Generally no, except in special circumstances. If your message is going to a very small list, and the attachment is also very small (we're thinking in terms of kilobytes, not megabytes), including an attachment shouldn’t be a problem. However, only ListServ lists for your own use are generally this small. Most of the lists IRT maintains are very large and contain anywhere from a couple of hundred subscribers to tens of thousands of subscribers. The reason we cannot send attachments with messages to these large lists is related to the way ListServ lists work (see "What is a ListServ list?" above). The attachment might be very small, but that attachment will multiply in size for every copy of the message the list distributes to its subscribers. For example, a 50kb attachment sent to a list of 5000 subscribers will create mail server job size of 250mb. Imagine if that same attachment went to 30,000 subscribers! And please also bear in mind that ListServ uses the same mail servers that the rest of the Drexel community uses.

How do I obtain approval for a broadcast email sent through IRT’s lists?

Generally, the vice president for your department or an official who can approve on behalf of him/her (if you are a staff member), the Office of the Provost (for faculty members) or the Office of Campus Activities (for student organizations) can approve emails for broadcast distribution. Otherwise, the appropriate approving official will depend on the nature of the message. Brief descriptions of what types of messages the major approving offices handle can be found at Approving Offices, but if you are ever unsure of exactly who to request approval from, contact us!

Why was my message rejected for broadcast email distribution?

Not all messages sent to approving offices are approved for broadcast email distribution. Most often, rejected messages are better suited for newsletter communications such as the Events Calendar rather than standalone mass emails, since the Events Calendar was created to help reduce inbox clutter and centralize event announcements. Requestors are thus generally directed to submit to the Events calendar. In other instances, the message just might not be appropriate for the Drexel community, or if you are requesting the message on behalf of a student organization, the organization might not be recognized by the University. In either case, communicate directly with the approving official to find out the reason(s) for his/her decision.

Are class list subscriptions automatically updated?

Yes! All class lists created by IRT at instructors' requests are automatically updating and thus reflect the most current roster (refreshed daily).

Help! I received an error message from ListServ

Error messages from ListServ can be cryptic, and can range from address bounces to bad email commands. If you receive an error message from ListServ, the best thing to do is forward this error to us at with a short explanation of what you were trying to do at the time. We will help you troubleshoot the issue.