Provost nixes soap plan, citing budget constraints

Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer, yesterday rejected a Yale College Council proposal to install liquid hand soap dispensers in hallway bathrooms on Old Campus and in residential colleges.

The decision comes after months of heavy lobbying by Freshman College Council officers with the YCC’s support. In the end, Richard, who is currently attempting to balance Yale’s fiscal year 2002 budget, deemed the several hundred thousand dollar plan too expensive and said new storage bins placed recently in bathrooms represented a significant improvement.

“I took [the soap proposal] seriously because this came forward from the YCC, and I pay attention to the recommendations coming forward from them,” Richard said. “But we’re reaching, as we do on a number of fronts, and I know at this point I still don’t have a budget that balances.”

Her decision has upset some student leaders, including Ted Wittenstein ’04 and Andrew Klaber ’04, who convinced the FCC and YCC to make the soap issue a high priority. Wittenstein, who is running for YCC vice president, vowed to convince administrators to readdress the issue soon.

“The issue of soap in bathrooms is a well-documented student struggle that has spanned almost a decade, and the administration’s continued inability to implement this basic health need, always with the reason that the current budget won’t allow it, is distressing,” Wittenstein wrote in an e-mail.

The provost’s decision comes after significant deliberation. In a letter to Wittenstein, Richard said she had done her best to consider the proposal “with the seriousness of attention it deserves.” She said the price for implementing the new soap system that Wittenstein quoted her was $543,000, but the actual cost administrators determined was significantly lower, though still several hundred thousand dollars.

Richard found it easier to make a choice when she discovered that storage bins for soap and other toiletries had been placed in hallway bathrooms for a trial period last year.

“I became less persuaded by the case when I learned about the drawers in bathrooms,” Richard said. “That seems to be a good idea because it allows people to keep all of their stuff there.”

But Klaber, the other main proponent of the proposal, also is not satisfied with the provost’s decision.

“We spent the entire year researching and crunching numbers and speaking about various administrators about the issue,” Klaber said. “Students have very little voice on campus to make real changes that affect the University — about Martin Luther King [Jr.] Day, sweatshops and now soap.”

Richard said if the bins do not prove to be adequate, then she would be willing to reconsider the issue.

The soap campaign is not the first time the YCC has fought for bathroom-oriented improvements, but other recent efforts have been more successful. In addition to the trial period for storage bins last year, administrators in 1999 agreed to install two-ply toilet paper in University bathrooms.

YCC officers are pleased with recently added amenities, but said they continue to hope for more.

“It’s unfortunate that they felt that soap wasn’t an important issue,” said YCC Treasurer Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03, who worked to get the storage bins. “I think that the trial period has shown that the bins are being used, but soap would still be a nice addition.”

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