New Automated Mail System A Failure

Dakota Roach –

Over the summer a new automated package notification system was installed by the Information Technology Department on campus.

The program was meant to function as an email system and keep a record of all packages delivered and received through IC’s mailroom. When a student received a package in the mailroom a quick scan of the barcode would send an automatic email to the IC student who the package was addressed to, alerting them that there was something to be picked up. After receiving the email, students could come in at any time and claim their package by showing their student ID.

The need for such a system became apparent late last year when it became clear that students were neglecting to check their mailboxes for green slips and the number of student packages waiting to be picked up was mounting.

Through a student’s gmail account, the new automated system could alert the receiver within minutes of a package being scanned. When a student came to pick up their mail, they would no longer need to present a green slip as they had in the past. Instead, the students Illinois College ID barcode would be scanned, interning into the system that the package had been claimed. The scanning of student ID cards would help eliminate confusion regarding if a package had been picked up, and the email system would ensure no student was missed, or notified by mistake.

The fundamental ideas behind the automated system appeared solid, and a program was written by Illinois College’s IT Department to make the system a reality. First tested a week before the school year began, flaws soon came to light that made the use of the system unmanageable. Malfunctioning scanners, crashing Ipads, pages freezing, and repetitive data entries requiring manual overide all compounded resulting in the program being sent back to IT for further review. After a few revisions, the program still proved to be failing, and instead of making package delivery and notification easier, it had the opposite effect.

Before the email notification program could be used for the students, IT reclaimed some of the equipment with the intentions of looking into the issues and solving the problems. As of the beginning of the school year, the plan was still to have the system up and running for student use within the first few weeks. However, that information came at the very beginning of the school year, and IT has failed to produce any revisions to the program since.

“I haven’t heard from [IT],” Morrie Smith, Director of Mail Services at IC, said when asked about communications between IT and the mailroom. “I’ve sent in two follow up requests but I haven’t heard back.”

At the moment the originally-promising system is sitting unused and unchanged, waiting for the time when IT services can fix it. One of the IT student workers who originally taught mailroom workers how the system functioned, Richard Urena, had this to say when asked about the flawed system, “I don’t know anything about it. I haven’t heard anything from anyone.”

When asked to comment, Patrick Brown, Chief Information Officer of the College, stated, “With the start of the semester, progress on projects has been held back by the volume of tickets we’ve received.  In fact, right now we have over 60 in the queue. This has to be our highest priority at the moment.”

At this time student mail is still being processed in the old fashion, with green slips and signatures.

For now the prospect of an automatic alert system is stalling with no clear solution in sight. The IT department is, as always, working to make the campuses technology function better than before while helping students when the need arises.

The prospect of a new automated mail notification system is exciting, but IC students may have to wait a little longer before seeing the collaboration between the college mailroom and IT services come to light.

Dakota Roach, from Jacksonville, Illinois, is a junior majoring in English Literature and Creative Writing. Dakota is a Student Ambassador, an active member of CEA and SAGE, and is a writer for The Rambler.

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