UWL students voice safety and efficiency concerns over the Eagle Mail Center

Eagle+Mail+Room.+Photo+by+Sara+Hafften.+

Eagle Mail Room. Photo by Sara Hafften.

Sara Hafften, Photojournalist

As the holiday season arrivesmany students from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will visit the Eagle Mail Center to receive letters and packages from family and friends. However, with the dropping temperatures and recent rise of COVID-19 cases, UWL students are voicing their concerns over the efficiency and safety of the Eagle Mail Center. 

According to Assistant Director of Residence Life for Staffing, Training and Development, Patrick Heise, prior to COVID-19 his team was, “already in the process of gathering input from Residence Life staff and our mail delivery carriers, about the increase in volume of packages being sent to students who live on campus. 

The main issue they encountered was the lack of space within residence halls to house the incoming mail.  

Most of our residence halls were built in the 1960s. Our front desks have space limitations with small back rooms that were not built with Amazon shipments in mind,” said Heise. “We were quickly outgrowing our capacity to have mail distributed at each individual residence hall.”  

COVID-19 forced Heise’s team to rethink their processes to create safer mail distribution that both reduced the number of touch-points in distributing mail and also responded to their mail carriers safety requests. The plan a few years ago was to eventually move towards a centralized mail center. 

This past summer, a location was identified in Eagle Hall. The space was previously used as a meeting space and would be large enough to account for the growing amount of mail. The space also had two exterior doors that allowed for a pathway to enter and exit the Mail Center. As a COVID-19 safety measure, plexiglass was also installed at the front desk, protecting the Eagle Mail Center assistants. 

Even with the preparations in place, UWL students are still left with concerns. 

UWL sophomoreRegan Finn, said that she was disappointed with her experience using the Eagle Mail Center. One of her main concerns is that the center is unsafe.  

In an attempt to reduce exposure to COVID-19, the line to pick up mail is outside. However, Finn said, “There’s no social distancing. There’s no mask wearing. Everybody’s like, ‘oh the line is outside so you can have your masks down, but then they stand close to you.”

Her original understanding was that the center would reduce the amount of people waiting in line within residence halls for mailhoweverin her experience, the lines only increased. According to Finn, for some students, the endeavor takes an hour in total from walking to the Mail Center, waiting in line, and walking back to their residence hall.   

“It’s not all that friendly to people who live all the way across campus from Eagle, as it’s not really a centralized location,” said Finn. For students with disabilities, the long walk to the mail room or to find a post box isn’t always feasible.” 

She said she is also disappointed that students are unable to send letters from their residence hall. She said students must now find a mailbox and transportation to a post office, which isn’t entirely accessible for some students, especially during the pandemic. 

As a residence assistant, Finn said that some of her residents are also dissatisfied with the Eagle Mail Center, saying that a lot of her residents avoid ordering anything or receiving letters because they do not have the time or energy to go across campus.  

When asked what solutions she would offer, Finn said that if a centralized mail center is going to continue to be used, policies and guidelines must be enforcedShe believes that the center being open for only four hours a day is too short of a window of time. Currently, the hours from noon to 4 p.m. occur when students are eating lunch and in classes. Finn also stated that an additional site on the opposite end of campus would also help students in the future.  

“The Office of Residence Life needs to take criticism and look at what the residents need. The student body are the ones dealing with this,” said Finn. The mail center has proven to be an inefficient means of delivering packages to students. This system is overworking student employees in the mail room, putting students’ health at risk, causing long lines, and is inaccessible to many students on campus.” 

Another UWL student, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed many similar concerns with the Eagle Mail Center.  

The most inconvenient part for them is the location. The student said they understand if the university needs a centralized place for packages but believes that students should be able to access mail within residence halls.  

[With colder temperatures arriving,] its going to be almost inaccessible to get my mail,” said the anonymous student. When I need to go get my next absentee ballot for the next election in January, how am I supposed to do that if the weather is below freezing, the sidewalks aren’t taken care of, and everyone else is trying to go there too?” 

The anonymous student said the long lines are also an issue.  

“One time I waited in line for an hour. When we all went under lockdown, they sent out an email saying that if there were any packages necessary to pick up, to come at a certain time,” said the student. Apparently, everyone else did. There were like 60 people in line. It could have been easily avoided if we just kept everything the same [within residence halls]. It would have been less contact too.” 

They said they were also concerned with the lack of organization.  

“Everything is all over the floor. It looks like they’re so overwhelmed. Those poor workers,” said the student. There’s one working the desk, one running back and forth to grab people’s packages, and one sorting hundreds of packages. It’s bad. It’s really bad.” 

“It seems like it was a system that was built to fail,” said the anonymous student. It was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this, but they didn’t put any thought into it. I really wish [UWL administration] would admit to some of their faults, not only in the mail center but with other things around campus surrounding the COVID pandemic. 

Students entering the mail center must wear a mask, and only two people are allowed inside at a time to retrieve their mail. The Eagle Mail Center is open Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m.  

For more information, visit, https://www.uwlax.edu/reslife/orl-resources/front-desk-services2/. 

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