By Lam Ho
As the new year dawned on The University of the South, a long-considered idea was put into action: the updated Sewanee Post Office, an efficient system of safely delivering packages to students. The temptations of late night shopping sprees and searches for extraneous sources for books have made students desperate for this sort of relief.
Derived from the Vanderbilt Post Office, the new SPO involves higher-level technology in order to ensure the safety of all delivered materials. In fact, the conception of this planbegan a year and a half ago. After numerous visits to Vanderbilt to understand the workings of their deliveries, $15,000 was budgeted to start the system with one scanner and the software needed to store students’ and faculty’s information. Trusted employees, trained by Hilary Cheston and Johnny Hughes, work with students to ensure that no packages are stolen and that there is an order in the chaos of shipped items.
Using student emails as a vessel for communication, the SPO scans incoming packages and notifies the student if he or she has an item waiting. The system also tells the student the location of the package and to bring an ID to authorize the transaction. To expedite the line, it is suggested that students either write down the location of the package or keep their phones in hand during the search for a package.Because the new system has only been in place since July 15, the post office has yet to “work out the kinks.”Johnny Hughes, the postal coordinator, discussed his role as “making sure work flow stays moving in a smooth, positive manner.” Right now, there are only two permanent workers; the other two, Webster and Sarah, left just one week before the new SPO made its debut.
In spite of many problems regarding lost and stolen packages last semester, Hughes insists that “there is not one specific incident [that spurred the system change] … No one has been deliberately dishonest.” The idea for the new system was inspired, then, by a need for a centralized delivery system. This way, the SPO becomes the new bookstore — students order resources from sources outside of Sewanee with ease. The purpose of a computerized transaction is to ensure that each package goes to the correct person in case an accident occurs. “Let’s say you came to the window and they give you my package by mistake. The wrong package has the tracking number, so we can always find it,” Hughes said.
The solution to mass confusion lies in the hands of two experienced workers, and improvements are down the road. While going to the SPO almost always promises a long line, it is true that the employees strive to accommodate to the needs of staff and students. On top of extending the weekday hours by thirty minutes, they have ordered a new handheld scanner so they can serve two people at a time. Next year, they hope to add a third scanner. Most important is the hope that the work study employees of this year will return in the 2014-2015 school year with their training in hand.
As a closing statement, Hughes said, “We need space. We beg for space. We do see ideas down the road.” One look around his office showed that his words are true: three large boxes leaned on the wall, crowding the room. Thanks to the Pub, however, the employees were able to avoid this issue during new student move-in. “Please give a thanks to the Pub for letting us store packages there over the summer,” Hughes added. This partnership is just one way Sewanee embraces the motto, Ecce Quam Bonum. In the future, students can expect the post office to continuously improve. There are currently three work-study students from last year who are being trained to navigate the system to reach its fullest potential.