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Mountains of mail

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Photo: Carter Oswood

Anybody walking past the front desk of a residence hall in the last week would have immediately noted the mountains of letters covering it. The front offices in all of the halls have been overflowing with mail and packages, leaving students to wonder what’s going on and if they’re going to get their mail.

During break, the mail is held at the Drake University Post Office, and then delivered to the residence halls when school resumes. Meaning, there is an extra 30 days worth of student mail at the halls. In a large building like Stalnaker Residence Hall, with its approximately 250 students, or even the massive Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall with over 450, that’s a ton of mail.

Mary Cecil at the University Post Office reports that usually the U.S. Postal Service sorts the mail intended for Drake students and delivers it to the residence halls by a mail carrier. It’s hardly touched by Drake on a day-to-day basis. Over winter break, however, the mail is sorted out, shipped to Drake and stored in the mail building. This way, there’s less handling and movement, which decreases the chance of anything happening to it.

Drake students also don’t have to worry about their mail getting rejected or sent back to them because the residence halls are closed, the way some other schools do. Once school resumes, a memo is sent from the Office of Residence Life to the head postmaster, and the backed up mail is sent to the school. It is then delivered en masse to the residence halls on the Tuesday that classes start back up again.

Upon delivery is where the real work starts. The front desk workers, especially the permanent ones that some halls boast, are in charge of sorting all of the mail that comes in. Not only does the mail need to be sorted by person, the misdirected letters and packages need to be forwarded on to the right address.

Alice Cronin of Stalnaker says that a common problem in first-year dorms is that people change addresses and forget to update it. She agrees that it’s all too easy to plug your school address into an internet site to order something, then set it as the default and forget to change it year to year. There have also been a lot of students moving halls at the semester break, and even some who have moved off campus, leaving the school no forwarding address and no way to get incorrectly addressed packages to the right place.

Mail handlers recognize the problem of students arriving back from break as early as Saturday January 14th, but not being able to access their mail until Tuesday January 17th when classes start. One suggestion was that the mail get delivered from storage to the residence halls earlier, possibly when RAs arrive back on campus, or even when students return. This would give the front desk workers more time to sort through all of the mail before school really gets in swing again.

Many students believe that the best way to help mail get to them easily would be to update their address in MyDusis.

Lorissa Lieurance, the Director of Residence Life, also mentioned that an email was sent out right before the semester ended, reminding students that the residence halls would be closed over break and packages, like pre-ordered textbooks, should be held until school resumes.

All of the individuals working with the mail system have stressed that despite the fact the front desks may look crazy, it is no different than the start of other semesters. All residence halls have to endure the “two weeks of chaos” of sorting all of the backlogged mail before it settles back to normal. Talk to students and you will find out that very few packages have actually been lost, and letters will get to you on time. The start of the semester is a busy time for everybody, but it’s nothing the Drake mail system can’t deal with.

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