Doing laundry is a necessity, but with a failing payment system, the process is much more complicated than it needs to be at GW. Students’ tuition includes 34 prepaid loads of laundry, or 17 free washer-dryer cycles, before students must pay with Colonial Cash or dining dollars to clean their clothes. But when students go to pay for a fresh load, they’ll often find broken GWorld card readers that leave them digging for quarters as the only possible form of payment left. Card reader malfunctions only add to the larger issue of machine disrepair in laundry facilities and force GW to spend time and resources on fixing unnecessary technological problems. Officials need to realize that the readers’ repeated service outages warrant a permanent solution. It is time that the University eliminates card readers to dedicate more time to fixing broken machines in laundry facilities, and in doing so, make laundry free.
Students deserve better-maintained laundry facilities even though hauling dirty clothes to residence hall laundry rooms only to see broken machines, flooded floors or wet clothes has nearly become a right of passage for students. Granting students unlimited loads would keep GW from spending so much time fixing malfunctioning card readers and offer students more opportunities to clean their clothes. Technological issues with card readers often warrant the removal of software and hardware with newly ordered replacements on top of multiple days of repair. While the card readers are down, students have to pay for laundry out of pocket, despite the free loads they are given. Eliminating the card readers altogether would not only ensure that all students can do their laundry for free but also redirect the attention spent on card reader repair to fixing the laundry machines that fail to properly function.
At least five times during the past academic year, the single laundry card reader in my residence hall was completely unresponsive due to a technological issue. Even after fellow students and I would fill out several FixIt forms to replace the card reader, it would remain broken for days and sometimes up to a week. One time, the card reader was left broken for more than 10 days because a new hardware piece needed replacement. The lack of a functioning card reader leaves students in the inconvenient position of paying with quarters, even if they still have free loads to use. Local restaurants and stores could only offer me about $5 in quarters due to a coin shortage in April, and I spent hours going door to door, both in residence halls and restaurants, finding those coins on campus. Washing and drying a load of laundry costs $3.50 or $1.75 per cycle. Students must often wash or dry clothes multiple times per load when the laundry machines fail to work properly, which only raises that price. Ultimately, I resorted to walking several blocks to another residence hall to do my laundry.
The laundry machines of my residence hall also flooded the basement twice this academic year. The dirty water ruined students’ clothes in the machines, made the building smell awful and the only option to get clothes in the laundry room was to wade through the water until it was drained after several days. It is understandable that laundry machines will not work 100 percent of the time, but the University should prioritize and improve its response time to laundry-related issues. Leaving machines broken or allowing water to sit in the basement of a residence hall for several days is not safe and students deserve better.
Complications with the card reader and poor machine maintenance can backlog laundry rooms with students waiting to clean their clothes. Once a maintenance issue is resolved, all the machines are consistently full of loads that students have waited to run, leaving many others without a place to do laundry for even longer. Some are willing to pull other students’ clothes out of machines after their time is up. Those who are not quick enough to remove their own belongings from machines can find them in a pile on the floor after their load is done. This laundry room backup proved very inconvenient for me when I decided to remove my wet clothes from the dryer for another student to use instead of running them through a second cycle. Students also have a personal responsibility to better track their laundry. The University provides students with a GW Laundry Tracker that notifies them when cycles are complete and allows them to reserve machines. Making use of this feature would help simplify the laundry process at GW.
Finally, GW should address where the revenue from laundry credit goes. While students pay nearly $80,000 annually, they deserve to know how the University spends the charge of $1.75 per load. If the money students spend on laundry is meant to enhance laundry facilities, the University most definitely is not succeeding. Seeing as it does not provide basic services like drying clothes on a constant basis, GW needs to better ensure the effectiveness of laundry facilities and communicate where students’ laundry money is used.
The solution to poorly managed laundry facilities is to do away with the payment system that GW currently has installed in each laundry room so that there is more time to focus on the conditions of the washing and drying machines. It is in students’ and GW’s best interest to reevaluate the laundry system – receiving unlimited laundry loads instead of tapping a card reader would eliminate another opportunity for malfunctions and allow GW to better address rampant facility issues. Students deserve to have properly functioning laundry machines instead of running around looking for quarters or finding other buildings to do their laundry.
Riley Goodfellow, a freshman majoring in political science, is the contributing opinions editor.