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The mailroom in Harnwell College House. Mailroom's across campus have experienced delays due a high volume of packages following move-in and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Ana Glassman

Students and University employees are frustrated with campus mailrooms' delays in package delivery and failure to communicate changes regarding University operations during the pandemic.

Delays in package delivery come just weeks after Penn invited thousands of students back to campus, asking them to pack only two suitcases for spring move-in and directing them to utilize the campus housing mailing system. 

In an attempt to expedite the move-in process, the University instructed students to ship “larger essentials” not brought in the allotted suitcases to their college house, which Penn Residential Services reported has led to “an unprecedented volume of large packages” in a Jan. 22 update to students.

Two mailroom employees, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from Penn Mail Services, said that the mailrooms were not understaffed, but were simply experiencing a massive uptick in packages due to the University’s limiting spring move-in policies. 

One of the employees estimated that the mailrooms were receiving 800 to a 1,000 packages a day, a significant increase from previous years.

“There’s a lot of packages coming in for a lot of people,” one employee said. “It’s just hard to handle this many."

Students are reporting experiencing delays up to a week and a half in receiving their packages.

The uptick in mail delivery volume led Penn Residential Services to hire a contractor, Canon Mail Systems, to assist in the delivery of packages. The contractors, who received Penn OpenPass clearance and underwent background checks conducted by the University, were given PennCard access to dorm buildings and student rooms. They were instructed to knock on student’s doors to present packages, but were allowed to enter the room and leave the package if they received no response.   

While Penn Residential Services began working with the contractors the first week of move-in, they only alerted students of the policy on Jan. 22 — one day after the practice had ended.

College junior Mary Sadallah said she was confused after she had a package delivered by the contractors before Residential Services had alerted students about the plan to aid in package delivery. Sadallah has lived in Harnwell for two years.

“When I first had someone come to my door, I was very surprised. I thought to myself, ‘This has never happened,'" Sadallah said.

Some students expressed confusion and concern over the University's lack of communication with the delays.

Carson Sheumaker, a sophomore in Wharton and the College living in the high rises, said he was “frustrated” by the late notice. He said he had waited for a week to receive a package containing his bedding, which had been delivered to a Penn mailroom. 

"Coming into your room without telling you is kind of problematic. There should have been full disclosure," Sheumaker said.

Even with the addition of the contractors, students are still expressing frustration over package delays. Sadallah said she waited on a delivered package for a week and a half and added that she was “sure she wasn’t the only one to experience this." 

“Before, delivery never took more than a couple of days. And personally, I just got, today, a package that took 11 days,” she said. 

One of the two mailroom employees expressed frustration with how the various University offices, such as Penn Mail Services and Penn Residential Services, have handled what he believes should have been an anticipated event.

“There’s been a lot of confusion, and not a lot of communication,” the employee said.

Penn Mail Services, Penn Residential Services, and Penn College Houses and Academic Services did not respond to request for comment.

Students remain disgruntled by what they see as a situation that could have been handled more efficiently with effective communication. 

“The big takeaway is that this is a side effect of the pandemic, and we just have to remain patient," Sadallah said. “But communication helps. It’s best to not leave people in the dark.”