The USG is urging the University Priorities Committee to add tens of thousands of dollars to next year's facilities budget for improvements to campus laundry.
USG president Rob Biederman '08 and Undergraduate Life Committee chair Lauren Barnett '08 requested the money for improved laundry services in a letter to University Provost Christopher Eisgruber '83 and the undergraduate members of the Priorities Committee (PriCom).
In all, they are asking for $68,000, "the needed funds to repair broken machines and to service new washers and dryers that are scheduled to be added," the letter from Biederman and Barnett said.
Laundry in undergraduate dorms is free, unlike at urban schools like Harvard or George Washington University, and so there is no market pressure for improved service. Mac-Gray Corporation services and repairs the washers and dryers on campus, but laundry room signs urge students to report complaints not resolved by Mac-Gray to Facilities Services.
Laundry is a widespread campus life problem, Biederman said.
"For the past three years I have had to walk across courtyards or long distances, but I haven't had the worst experience," he said. "I've never had it stolen or placed into a pool of water."
He has received hundreds of emails from students lamenting their laundry woes, including washing machines that have been broken for six weeks and dryers that shut off after 30 seconds of operation.
"[The funding] would have an obvious and direct impact on the students. From our perspective it was a kind of no-brainer," Biederman said.
Jonathan Keller '09 spent the summer working for the Office of the Executive Vice President, where he researched shortfalls in the University laundry system at the USG's prompting.
"Having worked with the administration, I can assure that they are now aware of the major shortfalls in the current laundry system and are rapidly working towards improving the situation," he said in an email. "However, given the pending nature of funding, very little can be said about what exactly will be done and when it will be done."
Because Keller conducted his research while employed by the University, he declined to release his recommendations until the issue is considered by PriCom.
Laundry problems plagued Swati Antala '09 so much that she no longer does her laundry on campus, instead taking it home with her to nearby Pennington, N.J., she said.
Antala had miserable experiences with the washers and dryers in Wilson College during her first two years on campus and this year lives in Foulke Hall, which has no laundry machines. "It was never reliable," she said of the laundry experience in Wilson. "The dryer was broken, and it took a long time to fix."
Barnett used her ties with the Ivy Council to start a blog discussion about laundry facilities on other Ivy League campuses.
"There's a consensus that Princeton really can be improved, and it's time for it to be improved," Barnett said.
"Ideally," she added, "we'd like a combination of short-term improvements and more permanent solutions."
Short-term fixes proposed by the USG include the placement of laundry baskets, magnets and sticky notes that students could use to alert others about where their laundry was moved after being taken out of machines.
"The simple process of doing laundry has become, for many students, an exhausting and unnecessarily time-consuming experience," the USG said in its letter to PriCom.
Marina Shuster '11, a resident of Butler College, said "the machines are good but the dryers aren't too good — some are out of order and those that aren't just tumble the clothes without actually drying."
On the other hand, many students living in Whitman have yet to see a broken machine.
"Our machines in Whitman work very well, and they're energy efficient. It's been extremely convenient and very easy to use," Marian Messing '11 said. "Even stupid people like me who tend to screw up the easiest of things can use the laundry machines here."
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