NU mailrooms propose new package notification system

Tom Meyer

University Residential Life is drafting a proposal for a system that notifies students via email when their packages arrive in the mailroom, Director of Residential Life Mary Goldenberg said.

Residential Life officials hope to implement My Digital Doorman, a service that will overhaul how students in university housing receive packages.

“The claim by the company is that it’s four to 10 times faster than using the paper system that we have now,” said Paul Hubinsky, assistant director of Residential Life.

If the system were implemented, mailroom staff would use iPod Touches to scan in packages as they arrive, instantly sending an email to the recipient. Currently, a paper slip is placed in a student’s mailbox to notify them when he or she receives a package.

However, Residential Life must overcome some hurdles before the plan can be approved.

“It would necessitate funding and additional technology, but it looks promising,” Goldenberg said. “It really depends on how many questions there are about it … and if the University is comfortable with that.”

The main obstacle could be questions of student privacy, Hubinsky said.

“One of the things that we’re trying to be very careful about is the sharing of information,” he said. “It’s a third party vendor and we want to make sure that we adhere to Northwestern policy.”

The proposal comes just months after a trial run of a student-designed system in 1835 Hinman late last year. That effort was spearheaded by Associated Student Government, but Residential Life decided not to keep that system this year.

“What we heard was that it didn’t help expedite things, that there were problems with the communication,” Goldenberg said.

Following that pilot program, Residential Life began to search again for other options. Officials settled on My Digital Doorman after speaking with administrators at the University of Illinois-Chicago, which has been using the system for years.

My Digital Doorman plans start at $295 per month according to the company’s website, but Goldenberg and Hubinsky said NU would use a $400 per month basic option. On top of the monthly fee, the program would require start-up costs estimated at about $1600 for the iPods and other equipment. Hubinsky said, however, these costs are lower than those of similar programs.

“There are some add-on features that we’re looking at, but that significantly increases the costs,” he said. “We believe the basic package itself would greatly expedite the process.”

ASG senator and former Student Life Committee member Lauren Goralski said the effort has been in the works for years and reflects well on ASG.

“I do know that they thought that email notification was something they’d been wanting to do for a while,” Goralski said.

Residential Life does not yet have a timetable for when the new system will be implemented. Goldenberg said the timing is largely contingent on any issues that arise during the proposal process.

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