BlitzMail transition impacts Hinman
By Sasha Dudding
Published on Monday, October 17, 2011
Students hoping to pick up packages have encountered longer wait times at the Hinman Mail Center this term, as the mail center is facing difficulties sorting through an increased number of packages and sending emails to students notifying them that packages have arrived, according to Hinman Mail Center Postmaster Karen Hautaniemi. These obstacles have largely been caused by the relocation of some students' Hinman boxes due to ongoing construction at the Hanover Inn and the BlitzMail-to-Microsoft Outlook Services transition that muddled some of the mail center’s current computer programs, Hautaniemi said.
Upperclass students interviewed by The Dartmouth said they have noticed a recent slow-down in operations at the mail center.
“There’s always a huge line, so I have to wonder what’s causing that,” Emi Weed ’13 said.
The mail center is typically overwhelmed at the beginning of Fall term due to the influx of packages ordered by incoming freshmen and returning upperclassmen trying to prepare for the academic year, Hautaniemi said. While this increase usually hovers around 10-15 percent each year, the volume of packages this term is 25 percent higher than last fall, according to Hautaniemi.
“Tropical storm Irene caused a lot of flooding, and some retail services in the area aren’t available so students take advantage of online shopping,” she said.
The ongoing renovations at the Hanover Inn, which resulted in the relocation of many students’ Hinman boxes, is a major cause of the longer-than-usual lines, according to Hautaniemi. All returning students whose mailboxes were moved — in addition to members of the Class of 2015 checking their Hinman boxes for the first time — had to visit the package window to obtain new lock combinations for their boxes, she said.
While the mail center had hoped to list the new combinations online, the College’s information technology staff was occupied with the Blitz-2-Blitz transition and was therefore unable to set up such a system before students returned to campus, Hautaniemi said.
“All these little things have a big impact,” she said.
Electronic errors with WITS Tracking, the package notification system used to send emails to students when their packages arrive, compounded the mail center’s difficulties, Hautaniemi said.
The notification system stopped functioning for the first five weeks of Fall term due to a change in spam settings with the new Microsoft Office 365 Suite server, she said. After an ongoing collaboration with the information technology staff of WITS Tracking, students began to receive notification emails again on Oct. 13.
Several students interviewed by The Dartmouth expressed frustration with the temporary computer glitch.
“It’s a trek down here, so it’s annoying not to know if you have a package,” Laura Moriarty ’14 said.
Hautaniemi said she hopes the mail center will transition to a more digital system in the future that will eliminate the need to place physical package notification slips in students’ boxes.
While the mail center typically employs two full-time employees, one part-time employee and one postmaster, the College hires two temporary employees each Fall, Hautaniemi said. The mail center is also currently seeking an additional full-time employee in order to address students’ current needs, Hautaniemi said.
This staff shortage and the higher volume of packages has forced mail center staff members to work longer days, according to mail center employee John Nadeau.
“Last year, the most we worked was nine hours a day,” Nadeau, who has been a full-time employee at the mail center for over a year, said. “This year, it’s 10 to 12 hours a day.”
The mail center’s hours of operation have remained constant even as the mail center has been confronted with an influx of packages, Hautaniemi said.
Students are able to pick up mailed items that are larger than standard envelope size from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, according to signs posted at the mail center.
Despite the difficulties encountered this fall, students and mail center employees typically enjoy their interactions, Hautaniemi said.
“To me, the best part of the job is waiting on the students, saying hello and creating a connection,” she said.
The mail center, located in the Hopkins Center, includes mailboxes for all Dartmouth undergraduate students. Along with distributing mail from outside sources, the mail center also delivers intra-campus mail, maintains mailboxes and forwards the mail of recent graduates during the year following their graduation, Hautaniemi said.