Mail Center move still stings

Photo by Maria Porter

Late last semester, between the joy and agony of the Final Four and finals week, Butler University announced the relocation of the Mail Center. It was the home of sunny Mail Processor Pam Hopkins and the heart of the campus community. But its relocation symbolizes a shift in Butler’s identity.

When the move was announced, students, faculty and staff reacted strongly.

Hundreds of students drafted and signed a petition. A sit-in was organized.

Still, this semester, you will find Pam Hopkins and the Mail Center in the basement of the Holcomb Building.

The relocation, said Mary Ramsbottom, associate provost for Student Academic Affairs, originally was conceived in 2009 as part of the Strategic Plan.

The space was earmarked for incorporation into the student academic services offices, including an expanded Student Disability Services testing room, more space for new Learning Resource Center staff, and an LRC common room that provides space for students to gather and study.

Everyone agrees these are useful and important services. After all, the space has been reassigned to support students with the greatest academic needs.

But it was the way the change was carried out that generated such negative emotions.

Although Ramsbottom demonstrated that the decision went through the proper channels, the timing and pace of the relocation is disarming.

According to a memorandum sent from former President Bobby Fong to Margaret Brabant, chair of the faculty senate; Julie Schrader, chair of the staff assembly; and Al Carroll, president of the Student Government Association, the relocation was included in the 2010 Master Plan for the university.

However, while a learning commons is included, the Master Plan never explicitly mentions the Mail Center, or which spaces the commons will occupy.

Dick Hamm, director of housekeeping services, said in an interview that the move was facilitated by the relocation of the office of the vice president of operations from Jordan to Robertson Hall, which freed space near the designated commons area.

Then, just a few weeks after announcing the relocation, the Mail Center was moved and renovations began.

Vivian Deno, associate professor of history, said the Mail Center represented an important part of Butler’s community spirit, and the nature of its relocation betrays an administration out-of-touch with the values it claims to represent.

Attempts to preserve the beautiful antique mailboxes are being made, but what Associate Professor of English Susan Neville called the “town square” of campus is gone.

As the new semester begins, you still can see the fresh plaster where Hopkins’ bulletin board used to be.

It’s a scar — a reminder of what was lost — a sacrifice to the greater good, perhaps.

But, before long, even that will be gone, and it will become more difficult to remember exactly what we lost.

Everything changes. But, thankfully, Hopkins is still here. You’ll probably see her, making her rounds, delivering mail, always smiling and chatting with just about everyone.

So if you see her, say hi. Or, better yet, take a break, and stop by her office in the basement of Holcomb.

She’s there in the afternoons, where you may find her working on a new Bulldog basketball bulletin board, and she would love to see you.

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