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The Dartmouth
April 16, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

New free campus laundry service ends years of student dissatisfaction

The College is slated to install free washers and dryers by mid-July.

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Machines have been removed from all on-campus laundry rooms for a two-week period before replacement by a new company.

On June 26, the College began removing all laundry machines from College-owned, undergraduate residential facilities, according to an email from Residential Operations director Cathy Henault to students currently living on campus. The machines, operated by CSC ServiceWorks, will be replaced by those from a new service, Automatic Laundry, Dean of the College Scott Brown announced in a June 22 campus-wide email. The new service will also be free for students, Brown wrote.

According to Henault’s email, the new machines will be installed around July 11, and the installation will take four to six business days to complete. During the two-week transition period, when traditional laundry services will be out of use, students will have access to a free wash and dry service provided by E&R laundry, a Manchester, New Hampshire-based business that already operates on campus through a paid subscription service, Vice President of Campus Services Josh Keniston said.

The upgrade follows years of laundry-related issues in College-owned housing, with students reporting problems such as damp clothing, failing machine parts and moldy washers. Keniston said the College chose to replace the laundry system after consistent complaints from those living on campus.

“We had been hearing from students over the last couple of years, and then more intensely over the last few months, that the current service we were providing really wasn’t working,” Keniston said. “Based on that feedback we received from students, we started to look harder at what the options were and actually found that moving to free laundry just made a lot of sense.”

Student Body President Jessica Chiriboga ’24 echoed Keniston, citing Dartmouth Student Government’s November 2022 Student Issue Survey. That study found that 64% of students were either “extremely” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with laundry affordability, while 68% were “extremely” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with functionality. 

William Summitt ’26 said that Bissell Hall, where he lived this past year and which houses 77 people, had only one functional washing machine in the spring.

“One night, I remember having to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag while my sheets were drying on hangers above me because our machines weren’t working,” Summit said. “I’m really excited to not have to deal with that problem… especially [because] that anecdote happened during finals week.” 

According to Brown’s campus-wide email, the administration partnered with DSG to facilitate the transition to a new laundry system. He added in an email to The Dartmouth that the initiative provides a “wonderful example of working closely with student leadership.”

“[Former Student Body President David Millman] and [Chiriboga] did a great job of keeping a pulse on pressing student priorities and communicated them to us throughout the year,” Brown wrote. “They did an excellent job of conveying pain points for our students and working with us to think through potential ways to address them.” 

Allen House Senator Matthew Kim ’25 added that the “only pushback” from leadership pertained to Dartmouth’s 10-year contract with CSC ServiceWorks, which was set to end in 2024. In a previous interview with The Dartmouth, Henault wrote that price negotiations could not be discussed until the contract expired. According to Keniston, however, the College managed to negotiate with CSC ServiceWorks to “terminate [the] contract early.”

“I’m not at liberty to go into all the details of that termination, but we have reached an agreement that is allowing us to end early,” Keniston said.

Some students explained that the termination could cause issues with CSCPay Mobile, the service’s mobile app that allows students to pre-pay for laundry. Summitt, who still has $3.50 in his account, said he finds it “concerning” that students still have money in their accounts that may no longer be accessible.

According to an emailed statement from Henault, students will need to “reach out to CSC directly” to reclaim their funds.

For the most part, however, students have had an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction to the announcement, Student Body Vice-President Kiara Ortiz ’24 said.

Mahina Damon ’26 called the initiative “so exciting,” adding that the poor functionality of some CSCService Works machines further increased the cost for students.

“Even though [a dryer cycle] was $1.50, it would really add up if you have to pay for it once, twice, maybe three times if your clothes aren’t dry,” Damon said.

In addition to saving money for students, Keniston said the new service might allow for administrative savings, citing a “streamlined offering” with fewer service calls from students. He added that the replacement laundry machines cost “less than 5% of the overall budget” of Residential Operations and will be funded by preexisting housing charges. Keniston added that housing rates for the next year will stay the same, since they were set before the College anticipated the change.

“That was actually part of the reason that we thought that it was appropriate to go to free laundry — because it is not a big part of our budget,” he said. “But we know that for some of our students, it can be a real burden. And so in the end, we thought that from the balancing perspective, it was something that we could absorb into the budget without having to drastically increase any of our rates.”