North Halls Commons Desk US Mail Pilot program

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A pilot program is being conducted in the North Halls Commons Desk for the 2016-2017 academic year. Traditionally, students living on campus are assigned a mailbox based on the room assignment, and share the mailbox with roommates. Any U.S. Mail received for the student is placed in the mailbox, and the student would be responsible for frequently checking the mailbox. Student clubs and organizations and campus departments would also drop off flyers and announcements that were distributed to student mailboxes. Often, many of these flyers would wind up on the floor of the commons building or remain in the mailbox untouched. Students would often forget the mailbox combination, leaving mail sit for most of the semester.

With the increase of packages being delivered to students, the question about whether students were still receiving the same amount of mail as in the past kept up coming in conversation. Staff were curious about this answer, but had no definitive way to verify that mail delivery had been decreasing over the years, other than anecdotally. What was definitely known is that students were increasingly receiving more and more (and larger!) package deliveries. Space to store packages in the Commons Desks is definitive - confined within the four walls of the desk. What measures could be taken to accommodate the increase of packages?

The idea that if mailboxes were not located on the outer walls, then that space could be utilized for additional shelving units was born. This transition seemed logical, but then what would happen to students U.S. Mail? Enter the pilot program!! Instead of handling mail through the mailboxes, mail would be processed similar to a package. The item would be scanned into eLiving, and the student would receive an email notification that a delivery is available for pickup. Mail items are stored in a secure file folder, separated by room assignment. The student must present their Penn State id+ Card to have the mail released. Processing mail similar to a package will decrease theft opportunities, as a roommate could easily take an item out of the mailbox or someone else could open the box. Providing a secure way to distribute mail has eased those concerns. Although North is unable to distribute flyers to each student, the opportunity to post announcements on the bulletin boards is an option.

For now, the mailboxes at North remain intact, but are not visible from the outside (the mailboxes were covered on the outside with bulletin boards and a temporary wall). But if the pilot program is successful, more thought will be given to whether the mailboxes will permanently be removed and replaced with more shelving units. Consideration to expanding the program to the other desks will also be reviewed. In the meantime, staff will be continue to be creative with managing the storage of the thousands of packages coming in daily.

Questions? Please contact Housing to discuss!