Off-campus students may miss missent mail

Kimberly Ghorm (freshman, nursing) checks her student post office box located underneath Folger Hall March 3. Randy Helman, a post office personnel worker, states that most students don't even know they have IUP-issued post office box and that built up mail must be returned to the sender. (Theron Binder/ The Penn)

Letters, textbooks and even Valentine’s Day goodies – these are just a few items that the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Post Office receives, holds onto and sometimes must “return to sender” during the semester.

The university’s post office, located at 900 Maple Street and attached to Folger Hall, has 4,500 mailboxes for students living on campus. While the majority of students do not check these mailboxes on a daily basis, many students find time during the week or month to pick up packages and/or check for letters from home.

“There are very few [students] that don’t check the whole semester,” said post office personnel worker Randy Helman. “I’d say there’s at least a dozen that don’t check it all year. Some [students] don’t know they have a box.”

The IUP student portal MyIUP lists mailbox information under its “personal information tab,” according to the post office website. New students living on campus can “claim” their mailbox number through the portal and receive their box’s combination, but some never do.

Post office personnel worker Valerie Wilson said “a lot of people use their dorm address” for their campus address.

But residence halls do not receive mail.

“You need to send [mail] to the Crimson Hawks address,” said Audrey Patterson, another post office worker.

The address Patterson refers to can be found on the post office’s website, and its personalized information can be found through MyIUP. It consists of the student’s name, his/her four-digit mailbox number and the university’s zip code: 15705.

Students who correctly use their Crimson Hawks address sometimes incorrectly leave it behind.

“They get an email at the end of every semester about forwarding their mail,” Helman said. “You know how many out of the 4,500 do it? About 100. If we’re lucky, I’d say a 100.”

Patterson said that number might be closer to 200, but with roughly 4,300- 4,400 unforwarded mailboxes comes approximately 430-440 unreceived mail items.

“Ten percent of it gets left here or sent back,” Helman said. “Because most [students] are coming back, it stays here.”

Unlike letters, packages do not stay at the post office for long. They are typically held for only two weeks, according to Helman.

When a package is delivered for a student who has an IUP mailbox, the office sends an email to that student’s imail account for notification purposes. Despite the courtesy email, Wilson said, “There’s at least a dozen packages that are never picked up.”

Some of that neglect can be traced to students who no longer live on campus and, therefore, no longer have an IUP mailbox or receive email notifications. When these students shop online, ordering options that are meant to be a convenience can actually become an inconvenience.

“You get the students who go ahead and order stuff and don’t check when they click to checkout,” Patterson said. “They’re still sending it to their old address.”

This can happen with numerous items, but one item post office personnel have come to expect is textbooks.

“We hold them for two weeks,” Helman said. “If [students] don’t pick them up, they go back. If [students] don’t live here anymore, we’ll hold them for two weeks, then they get sent back.”

This holding protocol is how the post office ended up with rotting flowers and boxes of candy during Valentine’s Day week. Helman, Patterson and Wilson said that flowers and even fruit arrangements were left to sit and wait for students who never came.

The suggested way to avoid unclaimed fruit baskets, other packages and letters is to fill out a change of address form, which can be found online and on the front counter immediately inside the university post office’s entrance.

Amy Easha (sophomore, safety sciences) lives off campus and said she did not fill out a change of address form before she moved.

“I didn’t even realize we were supposed to,” she said.

Easha said that when she had a campus mailbox, she checked it when she was “expecting mail but not any other time because it’s kind of inconvenient.”

Nikole Cunningham (sophomore, safety sciences) said her thoughts mirror Easha’s.

“I feel like [the post office] is in the worst spot,” Cunningham said. “Maybe if it was in the middle of campus or something more people would go.”

Cunningham, who lives on campus, said she will probably fill out a change of address form before she moves to off-campus housing.

“I feel like if people were reminded to do it, more people would do it,” Cunningham said of filling out the form.

Easha said that in addition to the email that gets sent at the end of every year, having Community Advisers give students the form would probably lower the high number of students – be it 4,400 or 4,300 – who don’t forward their mail.