As students pour into the less than 200 square foot mailroom eager to pick up their packages, they all but pile up on top of each other mimicking the box-like formation under them.
“It’s like Christmas morning except I don’t get to open any of the presents!” says Jim Markle, Director of the Mailroom. He watches a student pick up a box and shake it, and shouts “No! That’s my job!”
Jim Markle is known by the students as the mailroom guy. But what they don’t know is that Markle also has a career as an environmental photographer, he’s spent time as a college instructor, he’s worked as a House Coordinator for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare festival in the summer and he’s an avid outdoorsman. Since he started working at Sierra Nevada College last winter, he’s posed several solutions to make the mailroom services more efficient.
“I’ve always been service oriented. Maybe it goes back to when I was a college professor. My goal was to help students get through their program and make the best of what they had. It’s a teacher mentality sort of thing, to provide a service that somebody can benefit from. I don’t make a killing doing this, but my wife is here!” Markle said.
Born and raised in West Virginia in the Northern tip of the Shenandoah Valley, Markle received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. Right out of school he spent several years in the military before enrolling at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois. There he received his Master of Arts in Communication, majoring in journalism.
“I realized that to make it as a designer, it was important to learn how to write for clients, using that knowledge to leverage the design aspect,” Markle explains
He worked for six years as an advertising manager in publishing as well as teaching courses in advertising and graphic design at College of DuPage outside Chicago. That’s when he decided to start his own advertising design business.
Markle and his wife, Betts, moved to Incline Village in 2007 when she became the Library Director at SNC. For a couple of years he taught at Lake Tahoe Community College located in South Lake Tahoe, California. Not completely enthralled, Jim immediately began working as a volunteer with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) where he also worked as a photographer and script writer on the award winning 3D presentation “Lake Tahoe in Depth.” In addition, he also produced a time-lapse video documenting a wetland restoration near Tahoe City, California. He’s been working with TERC for the past seven years, as well as volunteering for organizations such as Project Mana, and The Tahoe Rim Trail Association.
For 22 years, Illinois was home for Markle and his family. With new job offers in Atlanta, the couple moved south and Jim began teaching at Bauder College as a graphic design instructor. He taught classes in advertising, art history, computer graphics, and photography. As a photographer, he also worked on assignments for Conde Nast Publications covering events in and around Atlanta.
It wasn’t until just last year that Markle began working for Sodexo at Sierra Nevada College.
“The reason I ended up in the mailroom…the person working here needed help. I agreed to work ten hours a week, which has since turned into about 30 hours a week. So you could say I stumbled into it,“ Markle said.
Brian Schultes, director of facilities for Sodexo, explains that “The mailroom volume is increasing, so we’re running on a six day operation and going to the post office on Saturdays now…Thanks to Jim, he has really systematized how packages are received, processed, and distributed, and that makes the world of difference. It’s not an easy job, but he does a great job managing to keep students faculty and staff happy..Sometimes he’ll send me an email saying, ‘mailroom disaster!’ And I will come down and help him sort on the busy days and do pickups, because he’s just got so much to do.”
Markle began doing research in the fall term of this year by contacting a handful of small colleges to see how they ran their mailing operations. From there, he drafted some policies and procedures that have not yet been accepted, but are in the works for future changes.
“Now that we are a bookstore and everyone has discovered online shopping, we have four times the mail we had prior to the 2014 fall semester. I get the frustration that comes from the students because there is a limit to the hours of operation. I am here from 9a.m.-3p.m., but I’m also not here since there is more to this job than sitting in the mailroom. Most people are appreciative, and some people, I understand, are frustrated but I’m only one person,” Markle said.
Markle laid out several possible solutions. First, is the option to lease mailboxes that include bins for larger packages. They could be installed in the hallway for students to access with a punch code at any time the building is open.
Second, is a postage machine. This could be a station for stamps, weighing items, packaging items, etc. This would speed up the transactions and the packaging process with charges made to a credit card.
Third, is creating more space. The ideal would be to claim Room 216 next door, which was the original plan. The single set of double doors would be far more convenient for shipping and receiving, and far less disruptive for classes.
Fourth, utilizing students for work-study jobs. Markle has had numerous students ask to work in the mailroom, but he and Brian can’t say yes until the college supports the idea. Utilizing student help to service a new “mailroom window” would be helpful in preventing people from taking packages that do not belong to them.
“I know for a fact that students come in here when its crazy busy and grab stuff to take out, probably for a roommate, but I’ve also had students come to me looking for packages they never received,“ Markle said.
Last but not least, the software. Endorsed by the post office, it’s embarrassingly cheap, being only $99 dollars per month to serve a campus of up to 1,000 students. With a purchase of a $35 dollar scanner, boxes come in, they are scanned by barcode, and the student would automatically be notified by email.
Lizzie Thibodeau, Director of Student Affairs and Housing, explains that, “We get mail here from students that have been gone for ten years. We have to come up with a better solution. A lot of past students haven’t taken care of their accounts, so we get a lot of mail that is return to sender, and sorting through that is difficult.”
There are ways to improve this system. The question is then when will the school, contracted under Sodexo, be willing to implement these new actions?
“I think the first thing that I’m looking at is making the mailroom manager a full time position, and the second thing I’m looking to do is to bring in student help for at least 10 hours a week. I think those two things in and of themselves will give Jim some breathing room,“ Schultes said.
Markle feels that it won’t be until the new budget year until anything is changed, but that he will have his proposal ready. Until then, Jim Markle, you’ve got mail!
JIM MARKLE, an avid photographer, has occupied a vast number of different jobs at and around the
college since moving to Incline Village in 2007.
Out with the old and in with the new. Lynn Gillette has left his post and the highest leadership position of SNC and the six-figure salary that accompanies it is currently vacant.
This transition is occuring at a period of great growth for SNC, and the previous leadership advocated for great expansion to our college. But is that what we really want? Do you want to see this beautiful campus slowly crowd with more students as the master plan is completed?
The presidency has historically been filled by people of very dynamic views. Sustainably minded men like Ben Solomon once led this small liberal arts school in a relatively humble manner, while our last president viewed sustainability with a strictly economic mindset. Odds are that the the SNC Board of Trustees will lean toward the latter end of the spectrum in its current search. Growth is good, apparently.
The board should pay special attention to the backbone of this institution in their search for a new president. This backbone is made of of the students and faculty who give SNC its soul and personality.
We need a president who can keep SNC out of the red and at the same time maintain the simple qualities that make this college so unique: Its small size, beautiful campus location, enthusiastic teaching staff, and mindfully progressive attitude.
We need a president who can raise funds without constructing a house on campus, and knows how to use those funds to benefit the students first.
We need a president who can spearhead more equitable wages for our professors, who are currently overworked and under paid.
We need a president who embodies all four core themes of SNC equally and values every department and opportunity this school has to offer.
In America just as many of our holidays are centered on the memorialization of dead men as are centered on the celebration of present life. A small percentage of us enjoy the ability to take these days off to ruminate on the irony of Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged in a federal holiday only a few months away from Christopher Columbus, who is somehow still held in just as great of esteem by most first grade classes.
But this year as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, presented with an array of MLK quotes and photos, I got a queasy feeling in my stomach. The same individuals who, only months earlier, railed against the population of Ferguson, Mo for “overreacting” to one of their young adults being executed in the street without due process or a trial, were publicly displaying the more politically correct, pacifistic words of an activist who only fifty years earlier, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” reprimanded the line of thought that led people to “prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
Many white Americans believe that racism is a phenomenon relegated to the history books. Their frame of reference being as limited as it is, it is not hard to understand why, but as I found myself lying still on the linoleum floor of the University of Nevada Reno’s Knowledge Center this past December, in a “die-in” protesting the non-indictments and deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, with a student attempting to spit on the protestors from the balcony above, I realized what the racial justice movement is to most white Americans; unimportant. A joke.
According to the Center for Global Policy in their 2014 report ‘Beyond Broke,’ the racial wealth gap is staggering. An African-American family will, on average, only make seven cents to every dollar a white family makes. One in three African-American men will go to jail at some point in their life, a rate that is over five times that of white incarceration. Ferguson, Missouri, in the news recently because of the shooting of Michael Brown, is a predominantly black town with a population of 21,135. In 2013 32,975 arrest warrants were served in Ferguson for nonviolent offenses, generating $2.5 million dollars in legal revenue for the city.
Statistics like these exist outside of the frame of reference for most white Americans. Even acknowledging their truth can be a stretch of the imagination to some.
They seem like a reality that is far off, distant, happening somewhere else. Something that couldn’t possibly be true, or traceable to a pervasive dynamic of political and societal racism that we have a hand in perpetuating.
On Martin Luther King Day I did not see my friends and family members talking about or even acknowledging these well-researched statistics.
I found them regurgitating quotes from King such as “I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” and “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” without possessing the background knowledge required to understand the context and significance of these quotes in their relation to the fight for social justice that King championed.
It is for this reason that I do not believe Martin Luther King and his teachings should be limited to a day of instruction in our public and private schools, or used as a reason to post another quote on Facebook.
This day is a marker, and a challenge, for white America to educate itself on the ramifications of the actions of our ancestors.
To teach African-American studies in our schools. To address the overwhelming racial wealth gap. This is why Ferguson’s fight is our fight. Whether we like it or not, we perpetuate the legacy of those who came before us. It is up to us to lift our blinders and set about the hard work of building a more just society.
|Wages are the most obvious tool an institution possesses to control its staff. At a non-tenure college like Sierra Nevada College, faculty have precious little leverage to influence their pay scale, and fear becomes a dominant player. I remember how nerve racking it is to ask my boss for a raise; I’ve almost been fired twice having that discussion. This leaves most professors at the mercy of the market and however the Board of Trustees decides is the best way to manage a budget that is still very tight.|
I can understand withholding subjective raises in times of economic crisis, (although the college is back on track financially, as those responsible are always proud to claim). Cost of living adjustments (COLA) on the other hand are a different story. The faculty handbook itself contains a pay scale that is described to include “annual cost of living adjustments”, yet the faculty received their first COLA raise in five years on Nov. 1. This means that for the last 5 years the college faculty have been technically received pay decreases each year compared to the rise in national inflation and cost of living. Even with the raise, salaries overall are 7 percent behind what they should be if they matched the 11 percent rise in inflation since 2009.
This is not a new issue. One SNC professor said that the current situation is profoundly better than it was 10 years ago; to the point of ‘parody’. This same professor currently makes the lowest possible salary for his or her rank.
The administration has not been profiting from budget restraints either. According to the SNC’s public IRS 990 forms the SNC president’s annual salary 5 years ago was over $300,000 above what President Lynn Gillette makes now, and Provost Shannon Beets makes roughly $70,000 less than Gillette did five years ago when he was provost. Beets said the the current gap in spending between administration and faculty is less than .1 percent of the budget.
The final decision comes down to the Board of Trustees. This year the faculty asked for a 10 percent COLA raise, and the executive team managed to pull a 4 percent raise out of the board. Hopefully Beets and the rest of the team can manage to get a commitment from the board to invest in further raises.
The lack of transparency regarding salaries is not helping the case either. Whereas all public institutions publish individual faculty salaries, SNC does not have to divulge salaries. Therefore any disparity between men and women, or school departments is incredibly difficult to identify. According to Beets, there is a inequity between male and female wages as the college, but it is small, and shrinking. As for difference between the departments, Beets said there is none but without public records as proof it is hard to say for sure.
Our teachers deserve wages that allow them to live comfortably in the place they teach. They should not have to work other jobs and make ridiculous commutes to simply scrape by; sacrificing their own financial well being for our education. If Tahoe was not such an incredible place to work I wonder how many professors would still teach here for these salaries? It is a fortunate thing that many of the professors here teach for passion and not for paychecks.
“Set some priorities and appreciate what we’ve got here…”
While most colleges in the US are located in urban areas, SNC’s a little different. We have more trees on campus than concrete. It’s sunny most days. Ski resorts are a short distance away and the lake is just a five minute walk from campus.
As far as academics go, most classes have less than 20 students. Teachers become your mentors. Everybody knows each other on a first name basis.
So what’s Freshmanitis? I’m sure you’ve heard of Senioritis — a time after you were accepted to college and the pressure to do “awesome” was gone. A time it seemed alright to stop caring about school and half ass your classes.
Freshmanitis is pretty much the same thing. It’s a phase a lot of us go through when we first get to Tahoe. The beach becomes our library and being outside becomes more important than going to class. We complain about small class sizes because it means we aren’t invisible like we would be at a bigger school.
The point is, it’s easy to overlook the benefits of attending a small college. It’s done too many times. But having teachers and advisors who want to be involved with your life outside of school is rare. Having a campus where you know the majority of your colleagues on a personal level is something to appreciate. So, don’t get caught up in Freshmanitis. Go to class, set some priorities. Most importantly, appreciate what we’ve got here cause we’ve got it pretty damn good.
Spring formal tickets are now on sale at the front desk in Patterson. The fee is a refundable deposit of $10, but if you want to bring a guest the cost of their ticket is $20. Spring formal is Saturday, May 10, but we only have a limited number of tickets so make sure you pick yours up today.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” Henry Thoreau said that.
But where do we find the truth nowadays?
The Devil Makes Three has been playing rowdy American music to eager crowds for over a decade. The three piece string band tours hard and fast, with their most recent campaign passing through South Lake Tahoe on Feb. 8. After hundreds of high energy, sold out concerts and exponentially increasing popularity, one might worry the DM3 is getting close to jumping the shark. Did Devil Makes Three jump the shark? No way.