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Plans for student mail delivery respond to changing needs

by Richard Veilleux - January 30, 2006

The move away from snail mail and the embrace of new technologies has led University officials to reconsider plans to centralize all student mailboxes in the renovated Student Union, and to continue processing mail in the various residential complexes.

“Times have changed,” says John Saddlemire, vice president of student affairs. “Students’ preferred modes of communication are now electronic, and traditional mailboxes have become significantly less important to them. The key rationale for relocating mail service to the Student Union was to increase student traffic, and now students indicate they typically check their mailboxes infrequently.”

Megan Vesce, chair of the Student Union Board of Governors’ (SUBOG) policy council and a member of a committee that analyzed student preferences during the fall semester, agrees.

“I probably check my mailbox once every couple of weeks,” Vesce says. “Most of the students we’ve talked to do the same, or even more infrequently. They’re happy with the mail system the way it is now.”

Initial planning for the Student Union renovations – including the concept of centralizing student mailboxes – began in 1998-99. But much has changed since then.

As a result of the decision, the approximately 15,000 mailboxes that have been placed on the first floor of the Student Union will be redistributed to some of the 19 mail rooms that currently exist in residential complexes and are in disrepair. Any remaining mailboxes will be sold.

The space allotted for the mailboxes will instead allow the University to create additional lounge and seating space for patrons of the food court, which is expected to open this summer, and allow the relocation and expansion of space for the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, the Student Union Operations Office, and the One Card office, as well as creation of an Office for Off-Campus Student Services.

While there will be short-term expenses connected to the new configuration, the University will save $600,000 to $750,000 annually by not opening the mailroom, based on estimates provided by vendors who would have been invited to bid on operating and staffing the facility. Mailrooms in the residence halls are inexpensive. They are operated by students, and are typically open for only a few hours a day.

Costs for the changeover will be borne by auxiliary funds in the Division of Student Affairs. No 21st Century UConn money will be used, Saddlemire says.

“Conversations with the SUBOG Policy Council, the Undergraduate Student Government, and key student leaders on my Vice President’s Student Leadership Cabinet have supported the efforts to improve service delivery to students and to improve modes of communication,” he says.

“It is clear that centralized mailboxes no longer represent a means to achieve that goal.

“The reallocation of space for more important student needs has been well received,” he adds.

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