Verbum Ultimum: All Washed Up
Dartmouth must renegotiate its laundry contract to ensure that students have access to functional and affordable laundry facilities.
Last month, The Dartmouth reported some of the challenges students face when trying to do laundry in their dorms. From dryers that require several cycles to dry, to washers that leak or don’t adequately wring out clothes, to machines that don’t work at all, the current laundry system sets students up to fail. When adding in the exorbitant cost that students incur when these machines don’t work properly — it is clear that the current laundry service provider, CSC ServiceWorks, is not able to keep up with student needs, at least in its current state.
As Dartmouth is currently in the eighth year of a 10-year contract with CSC ServiceWorks, it is vital that the College negotiate terms that address the issues students face while doing laundry.
Although faulty and unreliable washers and dryers may seem like a small inconvenience, it is one that can consume much of students’ free time and money. While it is reasonable to expect that students can allot two hours a week to do their laundry, faulty machines mean that a two-hour task may take several hours longer to complete. Laundry facilities are also communal — which means that if students aren’t available to switch their laundry or start another cycle, they risk their clothing being left in the laundry room soaking or damp or moved to the floor by other students. This can lead to a vicious cycle where, since clothing was left out wet, it must be washed again.
Additionally, these minor inconveniences are rather costly. If each wash and dry cycle costs $1.50 and students are having to wash and dry one load of laundry two or three times, they may spend upwards of $6 on a single load of laundry. Additionally, if students have several loads of laundry to do per week — which is often necessary to avoid overloading the small machines and causing them to break further — they may pay $10-15 per week on laundry. This payment, importantly, is not billed with a student’s tuition, where it might be covered by financial aid. Rather, most must pay with a credit or debit card. Although the expense appears small, for low-income students who have to work to provide for themselves — and in some cases also for their families — this extra expense means an additional, unavoidable financial burden.
The students who opt to pay for the laundry pick-up services such as E&R Laundry do not have to worry about the unreliability of the College’s laundry facilities. However, E&R services cost between $486.2 for the most basic plan and $953.71 for the premium package each year — making them a luxury few students could have. This means that students who can afford to access these services never have to deal with the time-consuming, aggravating process of trying to do laundry with broken and dilapidated machines. In short, the time burden that students spend waiting for their laundry to finish its second or third cycle is endured primarily by students who are not extremely wealthy.
Although it is up to students to report issues with laundry machines to Residential Operations, a necessary service such as laundry should not be such a large problem that these struggles are a ubiquitous experience. In short, it is the College’s responsibility to ensure that their machines aren’t in such poor condition that they are so easily broken. We understand that improper use — such as using too much detergent or overloading the machines — can lead to some of these problems, but students would be less likely to do these things if the machines worked in the first place. If each typical load of laundry would cost less than $6 and more laundry machines were available, students would be less likely to overfill the machines — consequently extending their lifespan. And at a certain point, if a problem is this widespread, the issue seems to be with the system itself.
That being said, we understand that some machines do break down from time to time. However, why else are we paying for laundry, except to cover the costs of the machines? Without addressing the poor quality and high price of doing laundry, the cost of these services only compounds the inconvenience of such issues. To this end, as the College negotiates their contract with CSC ServiceWorks, we urge them to ensure that free laundry — or at least laundry costs which are billed with tuition — is a part of this contract, as are working laundry machines. Many of Dartmouth’s peer institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, have already implemented such policies and it is time that Dartmouth does the same.
Laundry is a necessary chore. However, it is unacceptable for students to be constantly dealing with broken and inefficient machines at a school like Dartmouth that touts the amount of resources it has. In short, the College must do more to ensure that the current inconveniences students face in doing something as simple and necessary as their laundry does not continue into perpetuity.
The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.