On-Campus laundry: in dire need of a wash

Ellis McGinleyManaging Editor

“It’s really not that expensive,” my mother told me, standing in my dorm-apartment (or dormpartment, as I like to say) for the first time. Across one of the unused mattresses, I arranged three towels, hand-washed in our bathtub and now smelling strongly of vinegar and mildew.  

“It’s not the money,” I said, stubbornly and while holding my nose. “It’s the principle of the thing.”  

I do not like paying for laundry. I find it ridiculous it is not wrapped into the costs of residential living, particularly when on-campus laundry only allows residents to use our Hoot Loot cards to pay. Generally speaking, I do not keep money on my Hoot Loot. It is only once every few weeks, when I can no longer pretend my jeans are clean and I am out of pajama shirts I can pretend are just artfully oversized, that I have to go through the hassle of transferring the abhorred three dollars to get my clothes washed. 

This was an inconvenience I could forget during a summer at home, where my parents’ ancient laundry machines were blissfully free-to-use and I spent most of my time in pajama pants anyway.  

But as we settle onto life at campus, I have at last been forced to traverse the eight floors to the laundry room, obscenely overstuffed laundry bag in tow, Hoot Loot in hand. And it is just as much a mild annoyance as I remember.  

There is the state of our laundry rooms. In Chase, my freshman hall of choice, each floor (barring the first, where I lived) had a total of five washers and five dryers, two per floor. In Schwartz, we travel to the basement, where the musty, cement room awaits, equal parts “abandoned laundromat” and “abandoned bunker.”  

From there, it is a familiar routine. Shovel your clothes into the washer: Pay. Wait thirty minutes, shovel them into the dryer. Pay. Wait fifty minutes, shovel them into the hamper, sigh in exasperation when they are either faintly burnt-smelling or still damp (dependent on the machine, day, load weight, alignment of the stars), and trek back upstairs. 

Is it really that big a deal? 

Research suggests clean laundry can go farther than we think. According to the New York Times, some elementary schools implemented free laundry programs for their students and, as a result, saw class attendance improve.   

I know I feel more comfortable and confident just after I at last do the laundry, which I tend to avoid – both because of the cause and discomfort of the experience.  

At Eastern, our sister school in the Connecticut system, students can use coins, debit and credit cards.  

At Western, students can use an app to pay using their mobile devices or IDs.  

But at Southern, your only option is your ID and the swipe-boxes installed in each laundry room. 

 After you pay and punch in your machine number, you are treated to the loud rattle and screen of the who-knows-how-old thing behind you, eagerly awaiting your next instruction. Never mind the lint trap, which will always be full and always try to pop out when you clean out some stranger’s shirt-fuzz, or the promising way the water temps never truly seem to change.  

For the quality of laundry at our university, one would hope it would be rolled into the other fees charged at the start of term or given as a courtesy to students – or that we might be allowed to pay in more accessible forms, like coins and cards, or have access to newer, more reliable machines. 

As it is, though, I know I will still be begrudgingly reliant on the current system – at least until I figure out how to rig up a clothesline.  

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