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Complaints prompt USG to make mail reform a first-class priority

After waiting 10 days for plane tickets — which were sent priority mail to her campus mailbox — Nicole Silva '00 was forced to buy a $400 one-way ticket to Chicago to return home after Reunions last year. The first ticket finally arrived at Princeton one day after her flight.

Incidents such as this one have prompted the USG to revive a previously-abandoned proposal that it promises will make mail delivery faster and more efficient.


"We're using an antiquated mail system," said USG Vice President Spence Miller '02, who is spearheading the push for campus mail reform. "The fact that it takes 10 days for mail to get from one residential college to another residential college is not appropriate."

The USG is calling for a system in which each undergraduate would be given one mailing address that would remain unchanged for four years. According to educational finance and support services manager Keith Sipple, who controls the upperclass mail service, this would greatly reduce the amount of misaddressed mail.

The delayed delivery problems stem from discrepancies between the mail processing standards of the U.S. Postal Service and the University, Sipple said. Campus addresses are not "automated compatible" because automated systems cannot process building and residential college names. As a result, post office systems cannot read addresses such as Forbes A118, but could read an address such as "One Campus Center Drive, No. 12345," he explained.

If the proposed changes are approved, students would receive a five-digit mailing address different from their room number, Miller said. According to Sipple, this would make sorting and delivery faster because the post office would deliver mail sorted numerically rather than by dormitory.

After repeated student complaints about the mail system, the USG brought the problem to the administration's attention a few years ago. In response to those complaints, the Administrative Process Team was established in February 1997 to review campus mail. The APT, composed of faculty and administrators, developed a report suggesting ways to improve the mail system.

According to Miller, the University administration was unwilling to hear the team's recommendations in 1997, and "the report fell by the wayside."


"It was not the right timing," Miller said.

But with Frist Campus Center opening this fall, the USG believes now is the ideal time to reform the mail system. According to campus center director Paul Breitman, Frist will house all upperclass mailboxes in the fall, in addition to a nearby package pick-up window. Each student will have his own individual mailbox, he added.

The APT originally proposed that all students' mailboxes be moved to Frist, but the residential college administration disagreed. "We felt having freshman and sophomore mailboxes in the colleges was a great community-building apparatus because everyone comes in and checks their mailboxes on their way to the dining halls," Butler College master Ted Champlin said.

In a campus-wide e-mail last week, USG president PJ Kim '01 solicited anecdotes from students about problems with the campus mail service.

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Chemical engineering department manager Dale Grieb, a member of the group reviewing the mail system , will meet with Sipple on Thursday to examine the students' feedback and "determine where the problems lie."

"[The five-digit number] sounds like a logical way to go," Grieb said. "But we want to really analyze and try to solve all the problems."