Opinion: Laundry Rooms on Campus are Suffering: What is the Solution?
Picture by Skeet Starr
Piles of clothes sit on chairs and machines stay full in the Southwood second floor laundry room. The backlog of students needing to do laundry grows as some clothes remain in the small room for weeks at a time. The laundry system at Willamette University needs to have more enforced rules and regulations in order to stop inconveniences like these from happening.
As a first year student at Willamette, I was unaware of the past laundry system. Resident Advisor (RA) Safia Goldsmith (‘24) described the situation: “What happened was [the university] actually put the laundry payments on pause for Covid-19, but it was only because it was a state of emergency. It was unexpected and so they managed to find the funding to allow students to not have to pay. They simply brought it back once they found that Covid-19 was not as big of a deal any more,” she said. The cost of the machines brings up the question of whether this is having an effect on the untidiness and crowdedness of the room, because this seemed to be less of a problem last year. People may be desperate to get a large amount of clothes done in one load of laundry. In addition, the influx of freshmen this 2022-23 school year has filled up Baxter Hall and caused Kaneko to provide first year housing as well.
The same pile of laundry sitting on machines for days at a time with ambiguously washed or unwashed clothes is a concern that has not gone unnoticed by a handful of residents. “I noticed a couple weeks ago that someone managed to leave their laundry in a pile in the laundry room for like a week. And I was really surprised because if I do laundry, it’s because I have to do laundry, like I’m out of socks type of thing, so I can’t manage to go a week without getting my laundry. So honestly, that was a little bit surprising, but people just forgetting about it for a day or two is not surprising and not uncommon,” Goldsmith said. The laundry room is a shared space, making it all the more important for cleanliness to be a team effort. Taking out your laundry when it’s done will not only benefit you, but is a simple sign of respect and consideration for your peers whom the room also belongs to. Residents having a bit of leeway while keeping this in mind is okay, but it is vitally important to set boundaries when it comes to laundry and picking up after themselves. At a certain point it needs to be brought to their attention that incidents like this are not okay.
A possible solution to prevent forgotten clothes finding a home in the laundry room could be to enforce stricter rules on residents. RAs are assigned to the laundry rooms, and they are able to send out emails to their halls regarding any concerns and reminding them of certain tasks, according to Goldsmith.
Besides issues caused by students, Goldsmith explained how the laundry rooms do come with their own set of hindrances. Donney Hall flooded in the middle of last year, Goldsmith mentioned. Overall, the laundry rooms have been the main source of flooding on campus. The upkeep of the machines are not that great, but requests regarding them do normally get fulfilled within 24 to 48 hours. “Even though they’re washing clothes, they don’t really get washed themselves,” she said. This is something that only the university can take care of, maybe pivoting some attention to the upkeep and sanitation of the washing machines and dryers.
Goldsmith explained a bit about the money system that the machines are currently using. When asked about her opinion on the charging for laundry this year, Goldsmith’s response was: “I do think that we should go back to making it free, or maybe charging everyone a standard fee for upkeep instead of making people pay. That’s what we do for a lot of the other plumbing stuff, like the CAFES; everyone is just opted into a 25 dollar payment and then that goes towards the funding that anyone can use for any program. It seems a little bit more appropriate,” she said.
The laundry rooms appear to be an aspect of campus that many students are seeing issues with. In order to combat this and make the spaces better, it is important to address the problem head on and make sure residents take accountability for their actions and that the institution as a whole does its part in remaining diligent when it comes to cleaning these facilities. Emails are a great way to avoid calling out singular people and address the community as a whole. By keeping the laundry rooms clean and organized and being aware of fellow residents’ time, the system will be more cohesive.