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Following nearly a decade of complaints surrounding Penn's residential mail service, the University has announced that it will outsource its mail operations in 11 of the 12 college houses beginning next year.

"We hope people see a marked difference in the way their mail gets handled," said Lee Nunery, vice president of business services.

The decision to partner with the company Datrose, Inc. -- a facilities management company -- came after roughly four months of brainstorming possible short term and long term solutions to Penn's long-standing problems with residential mail. Housing and Conference Services formed a committee to investigate the issue last October.

Hill College House is the only residence that will continue to run its own mail services.

The changes will be implemented Jan. 2.

"We're hoping that the change is seamless and improvement is noticed," said Lynn Rotoli, associate director of marketing and special projects for housing and conference services.

Between 1992 and 1996, the University received roughly 1,400 reports of lost or damaged mail.

And in 1999, mail problems hit residents of the Quadrangle the hardest. By February, Quad residences had filed over 200 reports of stolen mail.

Two years later, in February 2001, the bulk of the problem had migrated to Hamilton Village where residents filed over 60 official mailroom complaints alleging that expected cards and packages were never delivered to their mailboxes.

Most of the mail expected by residents was believed to have contained money.

For most of the past decade, residential mail has traditionally been staffed by a group of workers who are in between jobs, causing Penn's mail system to experience an unusually high rate of staff turnover.

As part of Penn's partnership with Datrose, a new and more permanent staff will be hired and trained. Those who currently work in residential mail are guaranteed interviews to apply for a new position.

"When you go into the [mail service] trailer tomorrow, six months from now you'll see the same face," Rotoli said of the new plan.

Roughly half a million pieces of mail arrive at Penn in a given academic year, so administrators realize that mail delivery is an issue that needs more scrutiny and energy.

"We need full time attention on this," Rotoli said. "That's a big deal."

The new system -- under the watchful eye of Datrose -- will implement a tracking system for packages that will electronically notify residents once parcels have arrived, implement continuous hours in the package rooms and train employees with a more standardized approach.

Accountable packages, where a signature is required upon receipt, will still be handled through the front desks of college houses.

University officials will meet with representatives from Datrose on a monthly basis to keep abreast of new happenings in the mail service arena.

Datrose is headquartered in New York and has partnered with a local West Philadelphia firm to service Penn's mail.

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