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Evaluating mailroom frustrations

By The Brandeis Hoot

Section: Editorials

September 15, 2017

The problems at the mailroom have been on the forefront of many students’ minds. With long lines and wait times of more than 90 minutes, combined with the added frustration of first-years who hadn’t been entered into the computer system yet, the mailroom has been a frustrating place for both students and workers.

We see several areas where the mailroom can improve a frustrating system; however, we also think it is necessary to recognize the work that has gone into addressing the issue.

Despite these difficulties, employees have remained kind and understanding of student frustrations, even when the room is overflowing with impatient students. The mailroom also extended its hours to be open until 8 p.m. every weekday and from 10 a.m. from 4 p.m. on the weekends. These employees are working long hours—standing for hours and running back and forth retrieving packages. Everyone should recognize the effort they are putting in.

The university has also remained communicative, updating the student body several times through email messages. Kevin Collen, Director of University Services, encouraged students in a campus-wide email to reach out to him personally with any specific problems, such as misplaced or late packages. The university has also been transparent with the issues causing delays.

Still, this beginning of the year backlog is not a new phenomenon. Every year, as students order books and items for their rooms, there is a large volume of packages that flow into the mailroom. However, this year has seen record long wait times. As a result, Collen announced Brandeis would begin a root cause analysis of the delays, a project we support.

There are some steps that the mailroom could take to prevent future backups, which we hope the study will examine. For instance, it is neither practical nor efficient to take a large batch of ID cards, say 15 at a time, and then leave all those students waiting for close to an hour, so that they don’t know when their name is going to be called, but also cannot leave because they don’t have their ID. This can be especially frustrating when students try to stop by the mailroom in between classes, when they don’t have an unlimited amount of time to wait in line. Additionally, it becomes difficult to maintain order in the line when everyone is crammed into the small waiting area, and it isn’t clear whose ID has been taken or who is still waiting for their package.

Perhaps one of the greatest causes to the mailroom holdup is that many of the mailroom employees are new each year and do not have much practice before they are bombarded with the influx of early-semester package orders.This is a rather inevitable situation, but any options to increase stability or pre-semester training should be explored.

Furthermore, mailroom employees are contracted workers, meaning they are hired by Xerox—the company that the Brandeis mailroom outsources to—and not hired directly by Brandeis like Facilities workers.

The Board of Trustees voted to raise the minimum wage for full-time non-student employees to a living wage of $15.05. However, at a faculty meeting in February 2016, professors expressed concern that this did not apply to outsourced workers like mailroom and Sodexo employees. This can contribute to high turnover, and though Brandeis does control the salary paid to its contracted workers, the university should take any steps it can to ensure all those employed on this campus earn a suitable wage.

While it is understandable for students to be frustrated about the mailroom situation, it is also important to keep in mind that even though mailroom employees have no direct tie to Brandeis, they have been kind and gracious throughout this whole ordeal, and they are just trying their best to do their jobs. It is up to the Brandeis administration to make critical changes in the training processes and organization of the mailroom.

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