Bringing Laundry into the 21st Century

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Bringing Laundry into the 21st Century

With current laundry system, student finds an open laundry machine in Palmer (Campus/Emilie Munson).

With current laundry system, student finds an open laundry machine in Palmer (Campus/Emilie Munson).

With current laundry system, student finds an open laundry machine in Palmer (Campus/Emilie Munson).

With current laundry system, student finds an open laundry machine in Palmer (Campus/Emilie Munson).

By Emilie Munson

Imagine going online and with just clicks having access to the status of all the laundry machines at the College. No dragging your gargantuan laundry bag down snowy paths only to discover the machine you wanted is full. No waiting hours for a machine to open up. No forgoing laundry for weeks because every machine you try seems to be broken.

This is the Middlebury that Sophomore Senator Karina Toy ’17 envisions. Toy has been working since January 2015 to create legislature implementing LaundryView, a new technology that would allow students to check the status of the College’s laundry machines remotely. With a site similar to Papercut, Toy describes, students could log on and instantly view whether laundry machines in any building are “Available,” “In Use,” “Idle” (stopped but have not been emptied) or “Unavailable.”

In the SGA’s 2015 Middlebury Student Life Survey, 71.77 percent of students who participated in the survey voted “Yes” in approval of the LaundryView system whereas only 33.8 percent of students said they were satisfied with laundry services as they currently are.

Toy explains the appeal of LaundryView: “I am a person who plans my day down to the T. So being able to plan when is best to do my laundry, showing up and having a machine available, or to know that there is a machine available before I even leave is a great thing.”

Toy says the system would also allow the school to monitor laundry machine use, collecting data that would allow them to decide where best to put future machines. This data could help the College please the 39.01 percent of respondents who complain that there are not enough machines near where they live, according to the SGA’s survey.

Additionally, through the system, Facilities Services would be able to be notified when machine are broken or malfunctioning, permitting them to address problems more quickly; currently, Facilities relies on students or custodians reporting broken machines to get their information. 32.55 percent of students who responded to the SGA survey said there were not enough functioning machines at the College.

LaundryView is already in use at many of the College’s peer institutions including Williams, Bowdoin, Trinity, Tufts and Wesleyan. Its use was suggested in SGA meetings in 2012 by former SGA President Charlie Arnowitz ’13 but was shifted to the backburner at the time because of other more pressing budget issues.

Of the fifteen buildings on campus with laundry facilities for students, Toy proposes LaundryView be implemented in ten: Atwater, Coffrin, Forest, Gifford, Hadley, Hepburn, Kelly, LaForce, Painter and Stewart. The proposal excludes facilities in social houses for the time being because, according to Toy, they are less in demand and easier for students to check the availability in the traditional way than the other, larger student residences.

The hurdle standing between Toy and the approval of LaundryView is funding. LaundryView is a system produced by Mac-Gray, the College’s current laundry machine provider, but would require the addition of Ethernet in the laundry rooms. Assistant Treasurer Tom Corbin, who has been working in conjunction with Toy on this project, estimates that the installation cost of LaundryView would be 6,000 to 7,000 dollars in addition to the cost of putting Ethernet capacities in every laundry room.  Furthermore, according to Toy, the annual costs of LaundryView would be $2.75 per machine per month. This means that funding LaundryView could cost upwards of $11,000 in the first year alone.

The SGA believes these costs should be paid for by the administration not by the Student Activities Fee, the money the SGA has available to spend, because, in the words of SGA Chief of Staff Danny Zhang ’15, LaundryView is an “infrastructure-related cost.”

Corbin, however, takes the opposite opinion, affirming that funding should come from the SGA because “LaundryView is a convenience item for students.” To address student dissatisfaction with laundry services, Corbin’s office and the College’s Residential Life team has already added several additional laundry around campus in the past five years to address student complaints that laundry facilities were too far from their living spaces.

This question over the funding of LaundryView situates itself in the larger context of the debate about where the administration’s funding should begin and where should the SGA be responsible, a debate that Zhang says is constant. Still, Zhang is hopeful that the shared desire for efficiency on behalf of students and the College will push LaundryView and other similar technological improvements into approval.
“We’re always looking to do things more efficiently on this campus and members of the SGA [are] not the only people who are looking for that. […] [LaundryView] is part of a larger trend. We want to make use of technology if it is beneficial to students and the survey shows that LaundryView would be beneficial to students.”

If approved this spring, LaundryView could be available to students as early as Fall 2015.

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