INSIDE Chico State
0 January 31, 2003
Volume 33 Number 9
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Inside

STORIES

Calendar

Achievements

In The News

Behind The Scenes

Briefly Noted

President's Desk

Credits

Archives


 

What’s a Guy Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

Charlie Harless knows how things stack up in Stile's Warehouse.Charlie Harless knows how things stack up in Stile's Warehouse.

Charlie Harless graduated from CSU, Fullerton in the mid-’70s with a B.A. in communications and an M.A. in fine art, with an emphasis in photography. Thanks to Proposition 13, his tenure as a photography professor at a community college in Southern California was cut short. “I lived at the base of an 11,000-foot mountain, and I couldn’t see the mountain out my back window because it was so smoggy,” said Harless about his decision to move north. He made a stop in Santa Cruz before landing in Chico in 1988 for a job as warehouse operations manager at CSU, Chico.

Harless may not be noodling around with his camera much these days, but even out there in chilly, noisy Stiles Warehouse, Harless manages to be creative. He’s the guy who came up with a system that accounts for each piece of mail that hits one of those plastic tubs—and then charges you for it. He’s also the guy (along with his buddy) who designed a bar code system to keep track of all that stuff you use that the state owns.

On best-laid plans.

When I got the M.A., you could teach as a full professor in the CSU. Then they changed the rules, and you had to have a terminal degree. By that time, it was a little too late to go back to school. So, how many fine art photographers do they need in this world, right? I had to find a way to make a living.

On being creative.
I ended up working for a candy company in Santa Cruz for about eight years as a buyer and supervisor of shipping and receiving. I came up with better ways of doing things, found the right machines, stuff like that. I found that you can be creative anywhere, doing anything. It doesn’t have to be in art school; that’s just one way to create.

On moving to a place he’d never heard of.
I couldn’t afford to live in Santa Cruz. I was just handing my check over to the landlady. I saw this job at Chico State in the newspaper. I had never heard of Chico. The position was warehouse operations manager. But it wasn’t just warehousing. It included, at the time, property management, state stores, shipping and receiving, and mail services.

On managing the monster known as mail services.
Before 1988, all of the mail on campus had postage put on it, but there was no accounting system to charge departments. My job was to set up and design what is now called the Mail Management System. This meant purchasing the right machinery and computer system and establishing a postal code for every department, so that when we run your mail, the information is saved to a database.

On all that mail.
Mail services and shipping and receiving are two separate departments. The overall number for incoming, outgoing, and intercampus mail is 6.6 million pieces annually. It’s twice what it was in 1984. Shipping and receiving handles about 200,000 pieces—incoming and outgoing. That’s a lot.

On how many people it takes to deal with the mail.
In mail services, we have three employees. In shipping and receiving, we also have three. Then there are students who work for both sides—anywhere from 12 to 27, part time, each semester. I’ve hired about 1,500 students over the years. It makes me dizzy.

On crackpot letters and wacky packages.
We got a letter addressed to “The Secretaries of CSU, Chico.” I opened it because, obviously, who do you send it to, right? It was a very strangely written letter from someone with what looked like a third-grade education, warning about the end of time and earth. Then there was a letter inside that from, like, their alter ego. The art department has a program every year where people are invited to send an art piece to them—the piece is the mail piece, it’s not that you open it up and there’s something inside. Weird looking things show up with postage on them. It’s like modern art, very abstract stuff. I kind of like it.

On suspicious packages.
It’s rare, but once in a while you get something —the way it’s taped—and the box is kind of crushed, and the address is hand scribbled. [What do you do with them? Oh, we deliver them.] If it’s really weird, I’ll take it to the cops.
On unclaimed packages.

It is surprising how many people purchase stuff and don’t even give their name to the vendor. But what’s even more incredible, the vendor doesn’t even ask what their name is. This happens all the time. We send it back.

Lisa Kirk

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