Conor Dawson and Hannah Manning
A major change in the mailroom system is in store for students living on campus this fall. Students on South and East Campus will no longer be able to pick up their mail in their respective residence halls. UMass Lowell has done them one better; instead of managing several mailrooms across the two campuses, the university has condensed the system into two main mailrooms.
East Campus students can find the mailroom is on the first floor of Fox Hall while South Campus students can visit the mailroom on the third floor of the McGauvran Center. The two locations will both be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. On Saturdays, the mailrooms will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This major change was brought about by a change in department ownership over the mail system at UMass Lowell. Instead of being controlled by the Office of Residence Life, the mailrooms are now managed by Office Services. With this change comes a new mail system rebuilt from the ground up.
“When I was asked to take it over with my team we decided to kind of look at it and build it from scratch and figure out what’s the best, most efficient, most effective methods that we could implement,” said Nick Piscitello, the Director of Administrative Services at UMass Lowell.
Piscitello, who has worked at the university in some capacity since 2005, has seen several iterations of mailroom setups. As a student living on East Campus, Piscitello says that he also dealt with centralized mail. Though students today may count themselves lucky; in Piscitello’s time, the centralized locations for mail were in the former McGauvran Student Center and in Southwick Hall on North Campus.
According to Piscitello, The University of New Hampshire’s mailroom system inspired UMass Lowell’s return to a centralized setup. He says that their system was streamlined and impressive and provided a suitable model for UMass Lowell’s new initiative, although not without a few changes for added efficiency.
“We didn’t do it exactly like them,” Piscitello said, “because we felt there were some more efficiencies we could do. We modified some things to fit our needs a little bit more.”
The priority here, Piscitello says, was student convenience. South Campus’s mailroom move to McGauvran threatened to be a difficult change, but after weighing all of the options Piscitello said that the move had more advantages than disadvantages.
While in-house mail was convenient for students in the past as they did not have to leave their residence hall, Office Services decided that it would be a better answer for students to pick up their mail at centralized locations on each residential campus.
One of the primary reasons the change was suggested was so that the mailrooms could have set hours, making it easier for students to plan when to pick up their mail.
“One of the complaints that we would hear frequently from students was that the mailroom would just randomly close,” said Piscitello. “And by centralizing the locations we’re able to not only try and overlap staff so that we didn’t have those mailrooms fall into a situation where they close early.”
The change also helps the mail staff deal with the large number of packages that students receive. Piscitello says that packages have risen in number, while letters sent have declined. With those numbers in mind, it simply did not make sense to keep all of the mailboxes active while students might not even use them.
With the change in the mailroom system students will now receive email notifications when they receive both packages and letters. Upon receiving that email, they can head to their centralized mail location, show their student ID and receive their package or letter.
The system seems to work well, according to Piscitello.
“What we’re noticing in this week is the students are actually in class… and we’re seeing that as soon as the email goes out, we put [the package] on the shelf for them to come pick up, and within minutes students are coming to pick up the boxes,” Piscitello said. “We’re not even done processing all the mail and we’re already passing things out to students.”
The streamlined process has been a hit with students, Piscitello said.
“For the most part, we haven’t really heard any negative feedback yet,” Piscitello said. “A lot of what I remember, standing in the mailroom looking at the students as they’re walking in and their faces were just like, ‘wow, what’s going on?’ When we explained what the process was they all seemed excited. They loved the fact that they’re getting email notifications not only for the packages but for the letters.”
According to Piscitello, students in the Inn and Conference Center (ICC) are also looking forward to the possible implementation of a new centralized mailroom. This would replace their current system, which has shorter operating hours than the standard hours on East and South Campus.
During this period of change, Office Services is also looking at what it can do to improve this new system. A deal which is currently still in the works is the university possibly implementing Amazon Lockers on campus to deal with mail flow during peak times.
This has not yet been finalized, so Piscitello says that he does not know when or if it will happen, but he says that the advantages would be boundless. He estimates that around 70-80 percent of packages UMass Lowell students receive come from Amazon.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Piscitello says. “It allows Amazon to deliver packages 24/7, it’ll allow students to access them 24/7.”
Mail might be a peculiar thing for students to get excited about, but UMass Lowell students have a good year ahead of them if all goes according to plan. As Piscitello himself knocks on wood, so do the students.