Arriving on Albion’s campus this fall, the whispers in the dorm halls already started before the first day of classes – free laundry?! The rumor was the laundry machines in all of the buildings were free, but skepticism soon began to rise as to how long it would last. Some speculated it was just a fluke, it would be fixed before the first day of classes; others thought perhaps the rumors were true and laundry would really be free at Albion.
All of the questions were put to rest on Aug. 25 when Hilary Clark, residence director for operations, emailed the student body stating, “As you may be aware by now we have switched over all of the laundry machines on campus so that there is no longer a charge per cycle. Yes, you read that right—laundry is now free of charge in all on-campus residences!!”
No more using precious Briton Bucks, fighting with the card reader machines or hauling baskets of laundry home on weekends and breaks; now students only have to beat the Sunday morning laundry rush to ensure a clean wardrobe.
Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, junior Victoria Ruprecht reacted to the news by saying, “My freshmen year I used to hand wash my clothes in the shower because I was too cheap to spend my Briton Bucks on laundry. It was awful. Now with free laundry, I wash my clothes at least three times a week.”
Ruprecht went on to state there are some problems though, such as having to go in the morning to wash clothes “because washers are really competitive now.”
Another issue seems to be that people are taking their time getting their laundry. Ruprecht said, “Once my roommate and I had to remove someone’s laundry from the dryer because they were taking their sweet time to come and get it. It was super awkward later when we passed the guy with his laundry.”
Tim DeWitt, director of Business and Auxiliary Services, was the person who gunned for and helped to implement the new free laundry program at Albion. In fact, DeWitt has been trying to get this program in place for several years now.
“Forcing students that live in the resident halls to use the Briton Bucks program [to pay for laundry] just seemed like a cumbersome process, and it seemed like it was an inefficient process,” said DeWitt. “And to be quite honest, we shouldn’t be nickeling and diming our students. We really shouldn’t.”
Molly Sprague-Rice, a sophomore from Owosso, Michigan, agrees with many other students and with DeWitt that laundry should be free. “I think that laundry becoming free on campus is great. I don’t think people should have to pay for their laundry,” said Sprague-Rice.
In deciding to eliminate laundry fees, DeWitt said, “I almost feel apologetic that we should have done it a couple years ago. It was a matter of just getting the right momentum, getting the right program in place. It came down to what is best for the school and, most importantly, what is best for the students.”
By making laundry free, it’s the best of both worlds for not only students but also for Albion. “Albion College then doesn’t have to go and invest in all this new technology and all this new equipment,” said DeWitt.
Having laundry be free on campus was ultimately a better solution than to keep upgrading technology and then charging students more to do their laundry. In implementing the free laundry program though, there were a set of challenges that the college ran into.
“The challenge was getting into all of the facilities and disconnecting the equipment. And then when you disconnect, you have to go back and test every single one of those machines to make sure they’re working,” said DeWitt.
This entire process took about 3 to 4 weeks to complete.
There are benefits of putting the free laundry program into place though. “We’ve had less down time with our machines because this gave us the opportunity to make sure our maintenance is up to date on all of the machines. We’ve had a considerable fall off of students emailing that a machine is down. We are down almost 90% in complaints.”
Further reaction to the news of free laundry from students has been positive, with some, like Aurora Lobatos, a Dearborn, Michigan, senior stating, “I was super excited to hear about the implementation of campus-wide free laundry. It makes my life a little bit easier because I do not have to remember to load money onto my Albion 1Card every week. The only bad thing about this change is that it didn’t happen three years ago!”
The consensus around campus seems to be clear, everyone enjoys and appreciates the new free laundry facilities. Students now can do their laundry more consistently, but at the end of the day, everyone wishes it could have always been this way.
Photo by Erin Mahaney