Mail fee opt-out page causes confusion for graduate students

Kayla Solino | @kaylasolino, Assistant News Editor

The University of Alabama is experiencing technical confusions with the announcement and implementation of their new undergraduate off-campus mail fee.

On Monday, Aug. 1, the University announced via an Instagram post to the University page that a $25 fee will be assessed to undergraduate students who live off campus to receive packages through the UA mail center or parcel lockers.

The Instagram post said students can opt-out of the fee until Aug. 10. However, students who receive packages from Aug. 4-10 are unable to opt-out of the service for the fall semester. In a UA News email sent on Aug. 3, the University stated that the off-campus package service is not provided to graduate students, and therefore graduate students will not be assessed the fee and do not need to opt-out of the service.

Some graduate students said their myBama shows that they were opted-in for the process anyway and would be charged the $25 fee with no option to opt-out, despite their classification as a graduate student.

Melissa Meyer, a graduate student studying geography, said that her myBama indicated that she had been opted-in for the mail services. The screen read “You have already elected to Opt-In to start receiving packages through Campus Mail for Fall 2022. Your student account will be assessed the $25 per semester fee. You are no longer eligible to Opt-out of this service for the remainder of this semester.”

Stacy Vaughn, the executive director of Campus Mail confirmed that the confusion is caused by the landing page students are directed to when clicking on the appropriate opt-out link. The current landing page that some graduate students are seeing suggests that they are opted in for the service, despite the University stating that graduate students are ineligible to use it.

Vaughn said that the landing page some students are seeing is not an IT error, but OIT is working to provide some solutions to the confusion.

“[OIT is] helping us come up with solutions for students that do not need to opt out so they will be redirected to a page that lets them know they don’t need to opt out,” Vaughn said. The timeline for the redirected page’s completion is unknown.

Vaughn confirmed that graduate students do not need to utilize the opt-out link at all.

Meyer said Campus Mail informed her that her inquiry about the screen she saw on her myBama account would help them “work out the kinks” of the system’s implementation.

“Why are there kinks when [the University] announced this horribly and gave us only nine days to do something about it?” Meyer said.

No communications about the landing page discrepancies have been shared publicly with students at the time of publication.

The University said the $25 fee would be applied in both the fall and spring semesters for off campus students who wish to receive mail from the parcel lockers or campus mail room.

Vaughn said that the new fee allows campus mail services to “invest in needed resources…to continue to offer services to off-campus students.”

“Providing first class package and mail service to our students requires an extensive investment in personnel and equipment. As online shopping increases the number of packages received by Campus Mail increases. This requires more resources to meet the demand,” Vaughn said.

Students were not formally notified of the fee in email communication, but Vaughn said more communications and reminders will be sent to students throughout the rest of the opt-out period.

“Details and FAQs will be posted on the Campus Mail website and social media. This is a new process, and we will do our best to communicate as widely and frequently as possible,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn encourages any students and parents with questions or those who are in need of assistance navigating the opt-out page to e-mail Campus Mail at [email protected]

UA’s Department of Strategic Communications did not respond to inquiries about the announcement or implementation of the fee in time for publication.