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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Thinking outside the box: Mail center adapts to mailbox shortage, plans new system

Back-to-school is always a busy time of year, especially at the mail center. It’s a guarantee that students will order larger items directly to school during move-in or have to place last-minute orders when they realize which dorm decorations they are missing. This year, however, on top of the typical early semester mail center commotion, there is a shortage of available mailboxes. 

With 2,628 mailboxes on campus and around 2,800 enrolled students this fall, the numbers do not allow the mail center to assign one mailbox for every student. Currently, students without mailboxes receive the regular emails for new mail, but pick up their mail from behind the counter, instead of from their own box. 

The mail center had originally planned to make changes to the system this fall, but has since delayed those adjustments  to J-Term. 

“Our plan is to eliminate mailboxes altogether and [replace] them with package lockers similar to the Amazon lockers,” mail center supervisor Jacki Galenkamp wrote in an email to The Campus.

The key aspect of the new system is that mail processing will be automated, according to Lucy Inkster ’25, a student employee at the mail center. 

The upcoming system will enhance package collection and maximize space by removing the requirement for individual mailboxes for students, as many students’ mailboxes go unused for the majority of the semester.

For a team with two mail center directors, down from the previous three, and between 15 and  20 current student workers, Inkster said any efficiency gains in handling the large package volume of the entire campus make a big difference. 

“There's still that middleman, but it reduces problems,” she said.

Mailbox shortages at the mail center have proven to be a recurring challenge since the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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The current student mailboxes in McCullough student center.

Facing similar levels of over enrollment in 2021, the mail center previously experimented with sending mail directly to students’ doorsteps for select college-owned houses and off-campus residences. While direct delivery was effective in solving the shortage in the past, the mail center landed  on a different approach this fall. 

During the first weeks of the semester through Oct. 12, the mail center is operating out of the warehouse behind McCullough Student Center and Stewart Hall rather than the mail counter to efficiently store and distribute the higher volume of packages they receive.

“We are swamped right now and will be for a while,” Galenkamp wrote. 

For the time being, students without mailboxes are still being notified of envelopes that come in via the warehouse. 

“Currently we are processing anything important as "tray mail", sending students an email just like any other package and having them come to the warehouse to collect their mail,” Galenkamp added .

Once the mail center transitions back to its typical location inside McCullough and mailboxes are assigned for the fall semester, that procedure will be the same for those without assigned boxes. Students without physical mailboxes will pick up their letters and mail from a clerk during operating hours. Mail center operating hours for both the temporary warehouse and the permanent location inside McCullough are Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Olivia Mueller

Olivia Mueller '24 (she/her) is a News Editor.

Previously an Arts and Culture editor, Olivia is an International Politics and Economics major with a Spanish minor. Outside of the Campus, she is a spin instructor for YouPower, an avid runner and hiker, and a member of the Middlebury Mischords a cappella group. 


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