ECU student Lindsey Greene checks for mail delivered to her residence hall. Mail service delivery to residence halls is being phased out in a year-long project that is expected to be completed by fall 2015. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU plans to phase out residence hall mail delivery

Sept. 2, 2014

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

In another sign of technology’s continuing impact on student life, a yearlong project to phase out mail delivery to the roughly 5,600 residents of East Carolina University’s 14 residence halls has begun.

It’s not like the students will miss the six-day-a-week service, according to William L. McCartney, associate vice chancellor for campus living.

“The fact is, they just don’t get much mail at all anymore,” he said. “Mostly it’s junk mail and circulars. If you watch them when they come pick up their mail, it goes straight to the trash can.”

Beginning fall semester 2015, McCartney said the process of delivering student mail on campus will be the same as the current system for handling package deliveries.

When a dorm resident gets a box of cookies from home or shoes bought online arrive, the university sends an email and a text message to the student saying the package is available for pick up at the central mail facility behind the Flanagan Building on main campus or one of the two Neighborhood Service Offices located in the student housing areas.

That system worked fine with the more than 7,000 packages delivered to students last year through the two Neighborhood Service desks alone, McCartney said.

To make picking up packages and mail more convenient for students, ECU plans to open a second delivery center in the new Gateway dormitory complex that will serve the College Hill community.

Space now taken up by post offices in the dorm lobbies will be remodeled for other uses, McCartney said. Some dorms will get larger computer rooms, others will get better lounges or larger gyms, he said.

McCartney said ECU modeled its transition away from residence hall mail delivery on the experience of UNC-Greensboro, which dropped the service last year. ECU’s similar proposal, which carries an estimated $800,000 price tag, was reviewed and approved by the UNC Board of Governors at its Aug. 1 meeting.

The end of mail delivery in the dorms is another of those “back to the future” moments that McCartney said he has experienced working in Campus Living.

“Back in the day, it was a big deal when we replaced the pay phone at the end of the hall with free phones in every dorm room. Now we’ve taken the phones out of the dorm rooms because every student has a cell phone and the landline phones were just in the way.

“And guess what’s back at the end of the hall on every floor? A public phone.”

Student life in the dorms is changing in other fundamental ways, McCartney said.

“It used to be a big deal that we had wired all the dorms for cable TV and the students had free HBO. But in the last few years our surveys found that the students just weren’t watching the pay channels much, so we dropped that. We diverted the money we were spending to give them HBO toward expanding high-speed wireless Internet service, which as of this fall is now available in every dorm.”

There still are cable TV outlets in every dorm room, but McCartney said even that network may be on its last legs.

“Our recent surveys found that students are bringing fewer and fewer TV sets to their dorm rooms,” McCartney said. “What they’re saying is, why lug that big, heavy thing up here and have it take up so much wall space when you can just watch whatever you want whenever you want on your laptop?”

Desks may be the next casualty of the Internet age.

“If you look at how students study, what you see them do is sit cross-legged on their bed, with their laptop and books around them. That’s how they’re comfortable studying, so maybe we should encourage that.

“Their desks now are mainly used for piling stuff on,” McCartney said, “so maybe the desks can go to make room for whatever is the next big thing.”

McCartney said there is one trend in campus living that should only grow stronger—the demand for quick access to good food.

“Not too many years ago, there weren’t a lot of places you could eat on main campus. Now we have 26. And the expectation that most students have is that every one of them will be like going to a nice restaurant.”