Sorting methods cause mail delays

Late payment of bills, stale cupcakes and missed application deadlines are just some of the misfortunes GW students report this year because of late mail.

“I don’t get my mail on time at all,” said sophomore Colleen O’Gara, a Strong Hall resident. “Anything sent to me as overnight mail takes at least four to five days.”

“I’m not even getting some of my mail,” senior Guthridge Hall resident Kehinde Powell said. “Things get to me weeks later; my bills are always late.”

GW mail officials lay most of the blame on the U.S. Postal Service and people who mislabel student addresses and zip codes.

Following Sept. 11, students said they understood anthrax screening procedures would delay the delivery. Although U.S. Postal Service stations that handle GW campus mail began dropping anthrax security measures in mid-December for non-government mail, students said they continue to receive their mail late.

GW mail used to go through the U.S. Postal Service’s Brentwood Road facility in Northeast Washington, where a postal worker died of inhalation anthrax in October. The Brentwood facility was then closed for decontamination and has not reopened since.

“Mail is now slower because it comes into D.C. and has to be sent to Maryland, northern Virginia or other D.C. stations to be sorted instead of at Brentwood,” said Gregory Jeter, supervisor of the Ward Circle mail substation. “Once it is sorted at the various stations, it comes back to D.C., so it may take a day or two extra.”

Once GW’s mail is sorted at the various locations, it is sent to the Ward Circle substation in Northwest, D.C. The mail then goes from the Ward Circle substation to GW’s mail facility at 2025 F St.

The University delivers mail to each residence hall, where office assistants, who were once responsible for putting mail into individual student mailboxes, now cannot touch mail because of a policy change spurned by parent and student concerns.

Nancy Haaga, director for Auxiliary and Institutional Services, said GW Mail Services has been handling the “fine sorting” of mail through Pitney Bowes, the independent contractor that also began managing GW’s mailroom Nov. 1.

The mail delivered to residence halls sits in a box until another GW mail service employee arrives to put the mail into the individual student mailboxes later in the day.

“The problem is that if there is no room number on the mail, Pitney Bowes does not look up the name of the resident,” Guthridge Hall office assistant Melisa Pardes said.

She said the mail gets dropped into a misdirected mailbox and is sent back to the GW mailroom to look up the name before the mail is redelivered to the residence hall.

“This happens because we as students can’t touch the mail,” Pardes said. She said when they were allowed to handle the mail, it was part of their job to look up room numbers if none was listed.

Haaga said the new procedure has made delivery more efficient because the process involves well-trained professionals with permanent positions.

“Obviously, if someone doesn’t put the complete address on my mail, it is going to be sent back to USPS in Maryland, or wherever, and then redelivered,” Haaga said. “It’s common sense.”

She emphasized the benefits of having professional employees delivering mail as opposed to student office assistants, who change from semester to semester.

Slow mail is an issue GW officials said they are bringing to D.C.’s attention.

“We are currently working with the Postal Service to try and address these issues,” Haaga said. “I think the problem is the delays caused by the Brentwood station closing. GW Mail Services delivers the mail within 24 hours of receiving it. That is our policy.”

When asked about delivery lags even before Sept. 11 and the Brentwood shut-down, Haaga responded that before Sept. 11 office assistants put mail in individual mailboxes and the delay may have been out of GW Mail Services’ hands.

The Postal Service and office assistants recommended that students have mail addressed to them accurately, including room numbers, to avoid any delay.

“Many students do not use the correct zip code, 20052,” said Jeter, supervisor for Ward Place.

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