The Graduate Student Council (GSC) criticized UG2, the Stanford mail and package service provider, for continuous mail and package issues and brainstormed ideas for resolving several election ties between candidates for GSC seats during its Wednesday meeting.
Student concerns about missing flatmail, packages and mail being returned to sender have been a continued topic of discussion between the GSC and Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) this year. When UG2 replaced FedEx as Stanford’s mail service provider in September, the move was met with swift criticism from students upset with a pattern of missing packages and long wait times. Though many of the issues were resolved in fall quarter, graduate students have recently noticed a series of new problems with the package center.
According to Executive Director of R&DE Student Housing Operations Imogen Hinds, R&DE representatives met with the United States Postal Service (USPS) last week to discuss potential solutions.
“We are hoping to have better communication going forward with USPS,” Hinds said. R&DE representatives are slated to meet with USPS again in the near future, she added.
Hinds asked councilors to help collect examples of mail being returned to sender as per request by USPS. According to Executive Director of R&DE Strategic Communications Jocelyn Breeland, USPS has denied both holding mail or returning mail to sender, as well as knowledge that students are facing these issues.
“Whatever information you can share that will help us demonstrate the magnitude of the issue and the fact that these are not cases of misaddressed mail will help us get them focused on identifying a solution,” Breeland said.
Though the bulk of the complaints about misplaced or returned mail have come from residents in Escondido Village Graduate Residence (EVGR), R&DE will send an email about the issue to all graduate students. According to Breeland, R&DE is curious about whether these mailing issues extend beyond EVGR.
Councilors additionally heard from first-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. student Emi Soroka M.S. ’21, who monitors the EVGR mail reports address, about more detailed student complaints.
Soroka emphasized the severity of mailing issues, sharing examples of student complaints about missing bills and missing credit cards. Less than two years after EVGR residents reported problems voting via mail in the U.S. elections, Soroka is worried that a similar problem will arise again.
“We have a very serious mail problem and I don’t think it’s getting better,” Soroka said. “In fact, I think it’s getting worse.”
Soroka urged councilors to look into providing PO boxes for students who need critical items delivered and to publicize how to escalate mail and package issues when they are not resolved by UG2.
Councilor and fifth-year modern thought and literature Ph.D. student Jamie Fine expressed gratitude for Soroka’s reports, but noted that the GSC cannot legally provide PO boxes for students. However, councilors could help pressure R&DE to provide PO boxes for students, she said.
Emily Schell, also a councilor and a fourth-year developmental and psychological sciences Ph.D. student, questioned the viability of Stanford’s partnership with UG2 given the deluge of student complaints regarding mail and packages.
“It’s been pretty clear that UG2 has been failing to fulfill its contractual obligation,” Schell said. “This partnership from the beginning has created more problems than it’s solved.”
Councilors also brainstormed solutions for resolving ties among several contested GSC positions for the 2022-2023 school year. The council has elected 13 of its 15 voting members to positions, according to GSC co-chair KC Shah J.D. ‘22, after the recent 2022 ASSU election.
The council’s conundrum is centered around the remaining two positions, with four write-in candidates tied for the Graduate School of Business (GSB) representative and three write-in candidates tied for the Graduate School of Education (GSE) representative. Two of the candidates tied for the GSE representative have asked to split the position, Shah said.
According to the GSC Bylaws, five of the 15 voting members must be at-large representatives, meaning that they are selected from the entire graduate population rather than a specific school. Candidates for non-at-large districts may also be considered for at-large districts, meaning that those candidates who are not selected for either the GSB or GSE position may then be considered for any of the five at-large positions.
The council must first resolve the ties between the GSB and GSE candidates before voting on the at-large seats, according to GSC co-chair and fifth-year communications Ph.D. student Sanna Ali. However, because four of the existing candidates for at-large seats received more votes in the ASSU election than any of the GSB and GSE candidates, the GSB and GSE candidates can only compete for one at-large seat.
Councilors debated the pros and cons of selecting more than 15 voting members to the council, as well as whether increasing member count would violate its bylaws.
“I don’t understand the benefit to us with the exclusivity, because what it seems to be doing is minimizing our numbers,” Fine said.
Several proposals included selecting some of the candidates as non-voting members of the council, or allowing several candidates to share a single position. Fine floated the possibility of one candidate serving in the position for two quarters of the year, with the other serving the remaining two quarters.
Schell raised concerns about selecting candidates who lack complete knowledge of the responsibilities of a GSC seat, a problem that could be heightened among candidates who did not run for a seat, but were written in by classmates. She suggested reaching out to each GSB and GSE candidate and informing them of the duties of the role, as well as cautioning against taking the position if they anticipate scheduling concerns.
“If folks are like ‘heck yeah, I’m here for it,’ then yeah, I want them on,” Schell said. “But if they don’t have the capacity, then no.”
Councilors resolved to take up Schell’s suggestion. According to Ali, the GSC will follow up with each GSB and GSE candidate and inform them of what being a voter member entails, and ask them if they still want to compete for the position. Candidates who do not win either the GSB or GSE seat will be considered for the remaining at-large seat.