If a student goes to the mailboxes in the Union Building to look for a letter from home or a favorite magazine, they might end up waiting forever.

After decades spent serving as one of the most important communication channels on campus, the student mailboxes in the Union Building are closed for business.

Beginning this semester, students will get their postal mail the way they get their packages. “A notice of delivery will come from Campus Post Office alerting students of the arrival of a U.S. Postal Service delivery,” said Kim Snyder, audiovisual officer supervisor for ITS Media. “The notice includes the Monday through Friday office hours when students can pick up their letter — or package — at the ITS Media office,” she said.

Joe Springer, curator of the Mennonite Historical Library, whose father worked as a manager of the post office between 1941 and 1949, is very familiar with how the distribution of mail has changed over the years.

Mailboxes have been located in the Union Building since 1949, when the building was constructed. Before that, students and faculty would pick up their mail in the basement of the Administration Building. Professors who were students in the 1970s and 1980s remember that students had to share one landline telephone per floor in the dorms.

Chapel used to be four times a week and students’ mail would be placed in boxes in the mornings while students were at chapel. Once chapel was over, hundreds of students flocked to the mailboxes to see if they had any mail.

Up until now, all students at Goshen College had a key or number combination that was used to open the mailboxes in which they got all their personal and private mail. It was a procedure similar to what many other schools in the United States had. One key or code, one mailbox.

The mailboxes are located in the Union Building, which is slated for renovations this academic year. Where the mailboxes are currently located will be transformed into a gallery featuring a private collection of Haitian art that has been donated to Goshen College.

“The goal is to create an inviting space for students to interact or to relax and study. It will also provide a unique space for social gatherings in the Union,” Snyder said.

But first, the mailboxes have to go. All mail will now be treated in the same way as packages. What exactly does this mean being treated like a package? For items too large to fit into a student’s mailbox, Campus Post Office sends an email letting the student know that an item needs to be picked up. Now, this process is used for all letters, packages and hand-delivered care packages. Conveniently, students can now pick up all of their mail in the same place.

According to Snyder, faculty and staff mail pick up and package delivery will remain unchanged, at least for the time being. Professors will continue to have access to mailboxes in the Union, as will some students with internships. Eventually, the wall of boxes will be removed and faculty and staff mail pick up will be moved to a new location within the Union building.

The old mailboxes are not going to be reused, and it’s still not certain what will become of them. Some might be offered for sale to former Goshen College alumni. According to Snyder, there have already been inquiries from alumni about the idea.

Snyder anticipates that the new mail delivery system will be more effective than the student mailbox system; however, it is going to be more labor intensive. “The new system will also be more labor intensive for post office staff, however, the rate of successful mail delivery will be well worth the effort,” Snyder said. With the old system, a lot of correspondence was left behind by the end of the year because students forgot to check their mailboxes.

Some students claim that they don’t see the need to change a system that was working. Others say it is better this way because all their mail is now in one place.

Gabriel Costa, a junior, said that he preferred the new system because in the past some things went to the wrong mailbox and it was really confusing.

“I used to leave my mailbox unlocked because I was always receiving letters for another person and this way he was able to go there and check,” Costa said.

Mailboxes have been located in the Union Building since 1949 when the building was constructed. Before that, students and faculty would pick up their mail in the basement of the Administration Building.