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Miami's Student Package Center moves to Shriver

Effective in August, the location of Miami's Student Package Center is changing -- and so is the way that on-campus students pick up their shipments.

The package center, which now operates out of Wells Hall, will be housed on the lower level of Shriver Center and feature intelligent locker technology, allowing students to access their packages 24 hours a day.

"Students can pick [their package] up at any time, if they're coming back from the library at midnight, if they're coming from Uptown at 2 a.m," Matt Frericks, Miami's senior director for auxiliary facilities and planning, said.

Almost 2,000 of these intelligent lockers, in varying sizes, will be installed, making this the largest system of its kind in the nation. When a package arrives for an on-campus student, it'll be placed directly into a locker, which will automatically generate an access code.

Students will then receive an email with that code -- the only information they'll need to pick up their package -- meaning that student IDs will no longer be required and that students can have friends pick up their shipments by supplying them with the code.

"If your roommate happens to be going to Shriver Center, or you're out of town for the weekend, you [can] have a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, whoever pick up the package," Frericks said.

To pick up a package, students must only input the code into a kiosk at Shriver, which will unlock the locker, letting students remove their package and readying the locker to be used again.

But there's a catch: To take advantage of the locker system, which officials say will minimize lines like the ones often found at Wells, students need to retrieve their package within 24 hours of being notified of its delivery.

"There's really no reason a student, for the most part, shouldn't be able to get their package within that first 24-hour period," Frericks said.

But if they don't, the package will be moved to a pick-up window, which will operate during regular business hours, for an additional 24 hours. If the package still hasn't been picked up -- for a total of 48 hours -- it will be returned to sender. All oversize or refrigerated shipments will be routed directly to the pick-up window.

These measures are being taken to counteract the space constraints the package center will face in Shriver. While the move will give students a more centrally located place to get their packages, Frericks said, the square footage Shriver offers is notably smaller than the space the current package center occupies in Wells Hall.

If extenuating circumstances prevent students from picking up their package within the 48-hour window, or having a friend do it for them, they will have the option to pay a daily, per-package fee for the package center to hold their items for up to five additional days, or a total of one week.

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Frericks said the exact amount of that fee, which will be charged to students' Bursar accounts, hasn't been determined yet, but that it will be significant.

"[The storage fee] will be high enough that students will be incentivized to come get their package. If we just made it $2 a day, a lot of kids would pay $10 and not worry about it," Frericks said. "We're not trying to make money off of it or penalize students; it's simply that we don't have the storage capacity to keep [packages]."

Miami Residence Hall Association (RHA) president Zach Roebel, who served as a student representative on the package center planning committee over the summer, said he's not concerned about these fines, given the increased convenience and flexibility the locker system's 24-hour access provides. Roebel thinks the presence of a fee will incentivize students to get their packages more quickly.

"[The fee] is another way of having the students hold themselves more accountable, trying to be more proactive in their day, teaching them a little responsibility," Roebel said.

Anita Byrd, director of the package center, said the new system will better enable her staff to keep up with the flow of mail. Byrd has been at Miami for 34 years and has spent most of that time in the package center. That means she's witnessed firsthand the rise of Amazon and other online outlets, and the corresponding boom in student package volume.

"This is a challenge that all universities are facing right now -- how to deal with the increasing number of parcels coming in and to be able to effectively and efficiently get parcels to the students," Byrd said.

Frericks said he, Byrd and other officials began discussing an overhaul for the package center a year ago, settling on the digitized locker system to help the university modernize its pickup processes.

"What we recognize is while that volume has been increasing, we are still doing it the way we've always done it," Frericks said.

The package system serves about 8,000 on-campus Miami students and handles 800 to 1,000 incoming shipments each day. During peak periods -- such as the second week of the semester, when many students are receiving textbooks -- that number can jump significantly. In fall 2016, Byrd says her staff fielded over 2,800 packages in a single day.

Now mail carriers UPS, FedEx and DHL -- whose business comprises about half of the student packages received daily -- will deliver shipments directly to lockers. Byrd's staff will only be responsible for stocking lockers with USPS packages, which comprise the other half of incoming shipments.

Two dozen locker units will be installed in Wells Hall during spring break. Shortly thereafter, current first-year students who receive packages will be randomly selected to try the new system throughout the rest of the spring and summer semesters.

"It's going to kind of give us a trial period for the staff to learn the new software, how the package system works, for us to work with UPS and FedEx and with their delivery people to understand and learn how they access the lockers," Frericks said. "We're going to work out our system on a very small scale."