As of this semester, all students living in Homewood dorms will be given a monthly allotment of $27 in laundry cash, which translates to 18 wash or dry cycles. The $27 in laundry cash that students receive comes directly from their existing housing fees.
Previously, students had to spend $1.50 for each cycle, but with the new inclusive policy they are no longer required to pay any extra charge.
Student Government Association (SGA) Senior Class President Pavan Patel, who spearheaded the initiative, told The News-Letter that it was all part of an effort to improve the student body’s quality of life.
“Laundry is a basic necessity that everyone at Hopkins needs, especially people who don’t have as many resources,“ Patel said. “Something as small as laundry could pose a burden, so we wanted to make sure that students could focus on their academics and not have to worry about these small auxiliary items.”
Patel said the policy change has been in the works for about a year and that he had been eager to implement it as soon as possible.
“I reached out the summer of 2018, so we’ve just been going through the process of getting information, getting data, reaching out to stakeholders such as the Community Living Advisory Board,” he said.
Dean of Academic and Student Services Andrew Wilson reassured students that the money taken would not result in a noticeable loss of funds for housing maintenance and other services.
“There should be no impact to the student experience, except a positive one, due to this change,” Wilson said. “We are working to ensure that students have an easier experience and that we’re limiting the amount of add-on expenses that they have.”
The campus’ washers and dryers are owned by Caldwell & Gregory, whose contract with the University makes totally free laundry impossible.
While this lack of ownership makes policies hard to change, it also makes the overall process easier for the University in the long-term. With the current laundry contract, the University does not have to worry about servicing any broken units or paying insurance for potential damage.
Although the University had to renegotiate their contract, Wilson said that it was a small price to pay for student convenience, especially after SGA expressed interest.
“There wasn’t anything particularly stopping us from doing it,” Wilson said. “Hearing that it was a priority for the students and that it would have an impact on them in a way that would be meaningful and convenient was something that we needed to hear.”
Inclusive laundry is one of the many improvements the University made over the summer in response to student demand. Other changes include giving freshmen access to the previously sophomore-only Nolan’s dining hall, modifying Orientation Week programming and introducing more Asian food options to the Charles Street Market.
According to Roger Becks, executive director of Student Auxiliary Services, student input is crucial for getting policies like the inclusive laundry initiative off the ground.
“I came here a little over a year ago and within three weeks, I had a representative from SGA chatting about inclusive laundry,” Becks said. “We felt like laundry was something that should be part of the housing experience for our students who live on campus, not something that they have to pay additional money for.”
Becks said that he was convinced that the inclusive laundry would be popular.
“We chatted to some other students who live in housing, and of course there was a resounding positive response to that, so I’m fortunate and glad that we were able to work it out,” Becks said.
So far, there has been a positive response to the change from sophomores and freshmen living in on-campus housing.
The change is especially helpful for underclassman student athletes. These athletes, who are able to wash their practice clothes for free during their on-seasons, receive no help with their extra laundry during their off-seasons, even if the team has regular practices.
Sophomore Bradlee LaMontagne, a member of the varsity wrestling team, reflected on the changes.
“I have to do a lot of laundry in the off-season because I have to do all my practice laundry and my regular laundry. It sucks,” LaMontagne said. “The Athletics Department will not allow us to do our laundry out of season, so [the new laundry policy has] been very helpful.”
Some upperclassmen, like senior Jenna Pasternak, who typically do not live in the dorms, have been annoyed by the new policy, feeling that the change should have been made earlier to benefit more students.
“My first reaction was, ‘Really? Why not three years ago?’ but as I thought about it more I’m happy as long as it’s benefiting people,” she said. “I think it’s annoying that we didn’t get free laundry, as it was annoying to live in AMR 2 without AC [when] the year after they got AC, but it’s really great for the people who have it now.”
Patel told The News-Letter that although this disappointment is legitimate and understandable, even confessing to feeling some himself as a senior, the student body’s long-term interest was the most important aspect to focus on.
Much of the upperclassman population, like Patel, is simply happy to see the school making an effort towards improving student life.
Junior Keyi Yin said that she was pleased by the change, even though she does not directly receive any benefits from it.
“I think it’d definitely reduce potential financial stress in students, as well as serve as a motivator to get around to doing laundry,” she said. “It’s a step in improving the overall atmosphere at Hopkins.”
Recently, more and more universities across the U.S. have been supplying their students with inclusive or free laundry.
Wilson cited a need to match this trend as another main motive for pursuing the inclusive laundry policy.
“There are other universities in our peer group who have done a similar laundry program, so it is something that we’re seeing is a standard piece of the experience, and that’s something that we wanted to offer students,” he said.
According to Wilson, inclusive laundry is just another step in the University’s efforts to make student day-to-day life more convenient.
“I think having the J-Card availability in the past was a way that we thought that we had sufficiently managed students’ concerns about laundry, so they wouldn’t have to find quarters,” he said. “Now this just kind of takes it to a new level.”