September 8, 2022

KEMPFF | The Mail Room: Cornell’s Bureaucratic Nightmare

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Sidechat, the venerable student body gossip app, has found a new topic to focus on: the email. The email, distributed to the unlucky students on North Campus who pick up their mail at RPCC, will now live in infamy. It amounts to this: Cornell does not have the capacity to handle the current amount of mail. Students need to stop ordering so many packages to alleviate the pressure on the mail system. 

The fact that there is a major problem afoot does not come as a surprise for these students on North. They’ve become accustomed to long lines, sometimes for multiple hours, twisting through RPCC in order to retrieve their mail. 

Students have had a brutal wakeup call to Cornell’s bureaucratic failures, all too familiar for most of the campus community. This column is a call to action: it’s time to fix the mail room. It’s also time to fix these broader bureaucratic issues that plague the University. 

Why is there a mail backup? The obvious answer may point to the fact that there are now thousands more undergraduates living on North Campus than in prior years. A short tour of North last week got me lost among the new towering structures which blanket campus. 

I have to admit it is beautiful. As a former resident of Mary Donlon Hall, a place which is only remarkable for the amount of Svedka-fueled parties in its dimly-lit halls, I am impressed by the sheer magnitude of North Campus. 

It’s clear, however, that there are certain kinks that have not been fully ironed out yet. One would think that at a school with some of the brightest minds in the country, they would have been able to adequately plan for the amount of incoming mail. But with more packages than ever being delivered by services such as Amazon — as well as an ever-present labor shortage — I think it is understandable that the mail department is dealing with some sort of a learning curve. 

I have more sympathy for factors such as labor, something that is continuously a problem here on the Ithaca campus. Although I cannot specifically speak to the labor shortage in residential life, I know how difficult it can be to fill the type of position required by a mail room. 

Still, the mail room speaks to some of Cornell’s issues of bureaucracy and managing this type of issue. I blame part of the problem as well on the sheer number of students here on campus. I welcome campus expansion and believe that more students should be given the opportunity to learn here on campus. But try to go to Terrace on any weekday and you can see that there is a numbers problem. 

Cornell needs to make sure that they can handle these additional students before putting them in campus housing. The University recently mandated that all sophomores will be required to live on campus, which has met some resistance. 

But if the University can’t handle the number of students, is this really such a wise idea? It would be great if Cornell would only implement a rule when they are fully committed to seeing through all elements of the plan, including the mail room. 

Although the mail room is a relatively small issue, I believe that it speaks to bigger issues here on campus. I firmly believe that the solution of ordering fewer packages is demeaning and unfair to students. These students are paying remarkably high figures in order to receive their education here. The least Cornell can do is to take care of their mail issue. 

While I appreciate the lighthearted attitude that students are taking about the issue on Sidechat, I know that they are frustrated by Cornell’s inability, week after week, to handle the problem of the mail room. So Cornell, it’s time to take responsibility and get to work on these problems, from the small RPCC mail operation to the bureaucracy that often cripples campus life.

Brendan Kempff is a senior in the Hotel School. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Thursday this semester.