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Credit: Julio Sosa

The term "snail mail" has evolved to describe traditional postal service, and in recent weeks,  students living in Hill College House and New College House were made to understand why.

This semester, the two college houses started using the same mail room for package delivery and pick-up, causing significant delays for many Hill and NCH residents expecting packages. 

Hill resident and College freshman Mehr Mehta said there was an instance when she paid for express shipping on a package that she needed urgently, but only received the shipment over two days after the delivery date. Mehta noted that her friends have had similar experiences. 

“The entire point of ordering something on express is that you need it urgently,” Mehta said. “So that whole thing gets negated if it’s going to take a whole bunch of extra days to be ready.”

Mehta said she is unsure why these delays keep happening, but thinks a larger staff could help better manage a package room that accommodates two college houses.

Paul Forchielli, the residential service administrator for Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services, noted that the shared package room arrangement for Hill and NCH is not unique. He said that, with the exception of Kings Court English College House, all college houses share a package room.

Forchielli said this layout allows for “consolidation of services,” to save on labor costs and to lighten the workload for the existing package room staff. It also creates more space for other amenities.

Penn Business Services spokesperson Barbra Lea-Kruger said the delays do not result from the layout of Penn’s mail rooms, rather from the complications with the United States Postal Service.

Lea-Kruger said packages sent to Penn through USPS are first sent to the USPS Philadelphia branch and then forwarded to the University. When students receive USPS alerts that their package has been delivered, it is only this initial delivery to the Philadelphia branch that has actually occurred.

Lea-Kruger said this can lead to student confusion and frustration.

“If I saw that my package was ‘delivered,’ I would think it would be at where I live,” Lea-Kruger said. “But that’s not what happens here.”

Forchielli added that troubles with delays that stem from the Philadelphia Post Office are particularly problematic for Hill and New College House. 

For other college houses, Penn mail staff brings the mail from the Philadelphia post office to the College House. However, because the Hill mail room was run by students until several years ago, mail from the Philadelphia post office is taken to Hill by post office employees, often causing further delays. 

Associate Director of Penn Mail Services Gerard Bishop said Penn is currently working with the city post office to clarify the shipping process and facilitate faster delivery. He said they plan to test new ideas and processes, such as not having students be alerted of a delivery before a package has actually arrived at their college house.

Mehta suggested that Penn take a holistic approach to revising the mail system.

“If it’s a staff problem, hopefully we can get a few more resources assigned to the system,” Mehta said. “Otherwise, if it’s a systematic efficiency problem we can see what’s going wrong.”

Forchielli said Penn is looking for student opinions like Mehta’s. He added that Penn has taken certain steps to achieve this goal and even sent out a survey to certain students last semester.

“We’re looking for student feedback,” Forchielli said. “We’re looking for what works best for the students, and for how students see the future of mail on campus.”