An illustration of a pile of boxes, along with tires and kayak, all of which have mailing labels.
Illustrations by Katie McBride

Care packages

May 17, 2022

Campus Life

When the current mailroom opened in 1982, the world of interpersonal communication was almost indescribably different than today. No email. No texting. Long-distance calls — remember those? — were billed at expensive, by-the-minute rates. Snail mail letters and cards were often the best options. Packages were only for special occasions.

That’s why, when the mailroom opened, its centerpiece was 3,500 shiny brass 5-by-10-inch boxes, one for each student. Today, the campus post office still operates in that physical space, but the services it provides have undergone a revolution that’s outgrown those little brass boxes.

The staff currently processes 800 to 900 packages on average each day.

Print and mail service associate Dante Parker said that when he started in 1992, just seeing a tracking number was a big deal. “We would be so excited,” he said. “One to five of those packages would come in” each day.

At the start of each semester, the mailroom rents trailers to hold everything coming in. “We rely on our counterparts at the print shop and sometimes the bookstore to help with package volume,” Timothy Dorsey, assistant director of mail services, said.

Now they often come in three.
A big contributor to the rise of package volume: Amazon’s shipping practices. A few years ago, three items ordered together would likely have arrived in one box ...

“We’ve seen everything,” Dorsey said. “Car tires, kayaks, refrigerators, you name it.”

As package volume has risen, lettered mail volume has plummeted. The staff often has to remind students to check their brass mailboxes.