Wes(hare)Boxes: An Investigation

Want to know what your mom thinks about sharing WesBoxes? Scroll on.

Last week I squeezed my hand into my narrow postal cubicle and found a pretty standard assortment of Wesleyan junk mail: some coupons for Dominos, a direct deposit receipt, some CFA flyers about the so-called “arts.” At the end of the slot was a nondescript envelope. It didn’t belong to me.

If you’ve read Friday’s Argus, you know already that shared mailboxes were a thing before Usdan came along and that they’ve made a comeback due to increasing class sizes. The incoming class gets the outgoing class’s block, which can no longer accommodate the number of students, so recent freshmen have begun to share. But why do upperclassmen who formerly had their own mailbox get subjected to sharing? Any number of reasons: either they went abroad and a dissatisfied student hijacked their spot, or they were simply on the border of two class blocks (read: I don’t fully understand the ins and outs of this process or how these upperclassmen are subjected to sharing later in the Wes game). I was abroad last Spring, so I am now sharing a Wesbox. But nobody told me.

What I wanted to talk about was the pervasive vibes of culpability I got throughout the workings of WesStation. When I went over to ask them about the things in my slot, I started innocently asking about the whys and hows of this system. What followed was sort of an Erin Brokovich-inspired search for truth and justice. One woman sent me downstairs to the package room, only to find myself redirected to Cardinal Technology Center. It seemed no one wanted to go on the record about the sharing of the boxes.

When I finally found someone willing to talk, he claimed to not be “in charge” of the process either (although he is the same man quoted by Anna Susman ’13 of Argus fame) and he sort of spoke in a pretty cyclical way, probably fearing bad press. I soldiered on, trying to make a name for myself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends I lose or people I left dead and bloodied along the way (you get the idea). If the hush-hush tactic is meant to be good for PR, it’s sort of working. But it’s definitely pissing off the affected students (although we’re all pretty affected here).

For more entertainment, see what the parent listserv has to say about all this:

“My daughter [senior] informed today Wes is double assigning mailboxes so her mailbox is now shared with a stranger. I have a real conceptual problem with this. Anyone else hear this from their kid? I will make a call to the school tomorrow.” mom ’13

“Personally, I think mailboxes should be private. Does anyone agree?” mom ’14

“I agree. Mail boxes should be private, along with a great many other personal liberties that are no longer protected and likely never will be again. ‘Should,’ of course, is the operative word, here. Unfortunately, after 9/11 and Google, precious little (verging on nothing, by comparison) is private anymore. I don’t think this bothers our sons and daughters nearly as much as it bothers us. Maybe it should (there’s that word again …).” dad ’16

“Do any of them even use actual mail boxes anymore?? I wonder if this is the issue since there’s so little snail mail these days.” —mom ’15

“I think it’s an issue-mail order medications, birthday cards, the occasional hand-written/crayoned note/picture from younger relatives, magazine subscriptions, extended family who prefer to send old-fashioned cards, lab results from a physician’s office, the rare formal document, post cards, love notes. We definitely need our daughter to have her own mailbox.” —mom ’16

“I don’t think my son cares. He pretty much only receives care packages from home… I’ve never heard of him receiving anything else.” mom ’15

“No matter what they say, kids still love getting snail mail. Find a dumb greeting card, put in a clipping from the town newspaper or a funny cartoon, add a stick of gum, and send it snail mail. It will make your kid smile in the middle of a busy day.” mom ’15

“Sorry to say, several things have been stolen from my daughter’s dorm room and no “strangers” have been in there. It is not hard to imagine then that a student sharing a mailbox with another student, unknown to him or her, might experience some theft of mail. A birthday card could seem attractive (reasonable to guess that money could be inside) or a small package. I think it is outrageous to share mailboxes. Where is the privacy?” dad ’15

“I do not think mailboxes should be shared due to confidentiality.” mom ’14

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13 thoughts on “Wes(hare)Boxes: An Investigation

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  3. Nick '85

    This is really amusing, especially coming from parents who probably shared mailboxes “back in the day”. As Paul ’87 says, envelopes are both effective and pretty cool. Meds and other packages should be held in the back anyhow. Why is the CFA sending paper anyhow? (And yes, back when the PO was in Fisk, I once actually met my boxmate!)

  4. Randy

    I really don’t see what the big deal is here people. If you live in an apartment with roommates, you’d be sharing a mailbox and depending on where you live, you may not even have a locking mailbox . Not everything is a federal issue (although tampering with someone else’s mail is.) So beathe easy, the government’s got your back. This too shall pass.

  5. paul b '87

    I shared a mailbox many years ago. The envelope is surprisingly effective at securing privacy as is/are the federal laws regarding theft/obstruction etc of the US mail. If you learned something sensitive about another and did not just forget it out of courtesy then we get to know you are a snoop and a busybody and possibly a crook. Pretty serious incentives to play nice. Worked back then mostly.

    Consider worrying about something else, I say. Like jumping into the “education bubble” economy too late.

  6. hrrnnggg

    lol the idea that this even a concern is hilarious. if somebody takes your mail its pretty clear who it was…

  7. Wesleyan Parent '13

    There is still such a thing as personal privacy. Yes, students may share things in their living arrangements on or off campus, but mail can be an even more personal and private matter for many of the reasons expressed by others, and no student who receives mail should be required to share their mailbox. They certainly don’t share keys to dorm rooms (unless they actually live in them). And with the amount of tuition and fees being paid, no student should be required to pay a “small fee” in order to receive their mail, whether they are on financial aid or otherwise. The University knew last spring, well in advance, what the enrollment would be for this academic year; it had plenty of time and could well afford to set up another bank or two of mailboxes in one of the rooms in Usdan to accomodate the increased enrollment, and should do so to avoid this doubling up.


    we are thinking of putting a bunch of shoeboxes on the floor of usdan for the overflow. what do you guys think??

  9. alum

    before Usdan, EVERYONE shared mailboxes. every. single. student. and no one complained (too much). guess it’s what you’re used to, eh? if wesleyan trusts students with gender neutral bathrooms, I think students can be trusted to not steal another person’s mail

  10. Mailbox sharer

    A lot of sensitive things come through the mail – paychecks, money from other sources, paperwork, etc. There is a reason why mailboxes come with locks on them instead of remaining open cubbyholes.

    I learned I was sharing a mailbox this year through a pretty rude awakening. I opened my mailbox to find a small package I’d been expecting. But it was torn open, quite clearly on purpose from the design of the tear. Fortunately nothing was missing, but it strikes me that one of three people could have done this: the mail carrier, the mail sorter, or the person sharing my mailbox. Having never had an issue like this before in my 3+ years at Wes, I’m inclined to think that my mailbox-mate assumed the package was for hir and ripped it open, only to discover that it wasn’t anything ze had ordered. An honest mistake, maybe, but it had the potential to be an insidious issue given the wrong person.

  11. Legacy Mom

    It’s hard to believe that students still get paper paychecks through the mail instead of direct deposit, but if they do, there’s some low-hanging fruit for the “cut the budget and put the savings into financial aid” campaign! When I was a Wesleyan student – long ago – we shared mailboxes without incident, and they were, in fact, a nice ice-breaker. As a Wesleyan parent, I think this is probably a non-issue for the majority of kids, but I also think it makes sense to give students a way to request a private mailbox if they receive medication or have some other issue, perhaps for a small fee which could be waived in the case of financial aid.

  12. PayMe

    What about the work study students who get paychecks in their wesboxes? Thats way more important than someone reading a letter from your parents. How has no one mentioned this yet?

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