I received an email from a graduate student at a well-known university in the UK. The email is a marketing email for a campaign run by a company the writer of the email is affiliated with. The campaign is about something that may possibly be of interest to people in academia, so I bear no ill will to the writer for sending me such an email. However, I have concerns about the way the writer presented him/herself. The email starts roughly as follows:
Hi [recipient's name],
I am a PhD student at [name of university] and I am writing to tell you about [the campaign]
[... long marketing blurb ...]
[... request that I forward the email to other people.]
and ends roughly with
PhD candidate, [name of university]
[name of department]
[university-affiliated email address]
[link to the company's website]
The things about the email that got my attention are:
The writer presents him/herself as a PhD student in the opening and signature of the email.
The email is sent from the writer's university email account.
The email is about a campaign run by a non-university entity (a for-profit operation, to judge from a look at the website linked to at the bottom of the email) that the writer is affiliated with.
The writer does not explicitly explain his/her connection to or affiliation with said entity, except indirectly by saying things like "we believe ..." and "our mission is ...".
In a later short email exchange I had with the writer, (s)he seemed fairly polite and well-intentioned (specifically, I emailed the student to say I will not be forwarding the email to anyone at my department since it is not relevant to them, and (s)he emailed back apologizing for the inconvenience and promising to remove me from the mailing list). So, my impression is that although the details above may may make it sound like this is a very shady and dishonest attempt to create the impression that the campaign is originating from the writer's university, it is possible that using the university email and affiliation was done out of naivety and lack of thought rather than out of an intent to deceive.
My questions are:
Is it acceptable for a graduate student who is involved with a non-university entity to use their university email to send marketing emails for their non-university campaigns?
Is it acceptable for graduate students to send mass-distribution emails of any sort from their university email accounts? Does this violate any standard policies university IT departments have, particularly in the UK?
Is it acceptable for a graduate student who is also involved with a non-university entity to represent themselves as a PhD student in connection with a marketing email that they send out? (Note that this is a separate question than questions 1-2 above; i.e., assume that the email is sent from a private email server but that the writer is mentioning their status as a PhD candidate at a well-known university, e.g., in an attempt to gain credibility. Is this okay?)
To clarify, by "is it acceptable" I mean that I am interested in these questions from several different angles, such as: are such behaviors ethical? Are they legal? Do they violate any standard policies that universities, particularly in the UK, have? Do they violate any cultural norms within academia or the larger professional world? If I complain about the student's email practices to their department, are they likely to get in serious trouble? Etc.