On April 30, the Gambier community commemorated the rare convergence of our zip code (43022) and the date. Central to “43022 Day” — and our community — is the post office that bears our zip code. There are reasons to believe that its continued existence is uncertain.
The College’s recent overenrollment has strained the post office. As a result, the administration has had to find ways to ensure that members of the larger-than-expected first-year class could get their mail. There are too many students to be accommodated by the existing post office (P.O.) boxes, so first-year students collect their mail on campus. This makes perfect sense. What is troubling is that the administration is considering a plan to make this arrangement permanent for each incoming class. After four years, no students would be receiving their mail at the post office; all mail would be picked up at the Mailroom. This plan has not yet been decided on, and I hope it is discussed publicly so all members of the community can weigh in on it. In anticipation of that discussion, I think there are several questions we should consider.
First: what are the financial implications for the post office if Kenyon stops renting post boxes for students? The College pays roughly $80,000 per year to rent P.O. boxes (0.0005% of Kenyon’s annual operating budget or one student’s tuition). I wonder if this loss of revenue will endanger the continued viability of the post office, as it seems like that is a considerable part of their income. If there are no alternative means of guaranteeing that the Gambier Post Office has the funds to continue functioning at its current level, what will become of it?
Second: what would the loss of the post office mean to Kenyon and the Gambier community? More than a building, the post office is an institution that is central to life at Kenyon and in Gambier. The post office is one of the most important places in town where people from different walks of life meet, chat and get to know each other. It is also a touchstone of memory. Many alumni still remember their P.O. Box number, the mural at the north end of the lobby and, most importantly, their interactions with the postal workers. It was these postal workers who helped them navigate the intricacies of sending packages to far-flung corners of the world or assisted in tracking down an essential letter that had gone missing. Our current postal workers — Linna, Julie and Bruce — besides being good at their jobs, are warm and engaging people. They have certainly brightened many of my days, and I strongly suspect this is the case for most of us. Gambier and Kenyon would simply not be the places they are without the post office and the people who keep it running so well.
The celebration of 43022 Day was an opportunity to appreciate the Kenyon and Gambier of today, and to imagine what our linked futures might be. The post office is at the center of both of these conversations. I hope we can work together as a community to find ways to support the post office that bears our shared zip code.