The relentless pursuit of the truth is one of the hallmarks of a liberal Yale education. So when Yale decided to charge students an extra 25 cents to use newly installed laundry machines, some inquiring minds among the student body wanted to know why.
“I just want to know why the price went up,” Rebecca Kaplan ’03 said, who brought her concern to a Yale College Council issues committee meeting on Tuesday night. “It’s just laundry but it affects everybody every day. I think a price increase is justified as long as we know why exactly it was raised.”
Kaplan is the former publisher of the Yale Daily News.
Over the summer, Mac-Gray services, the company subcontracted to maintain and service Yale’s laundry machines, replaced the aging washers and dryers in the residential colleges and on Old Campus with new Maytag machines. Along with this capital improvement, however, came a spike in the cost of doing laundry — the cost of using washers and dryers increased from 75 cents to $1.
John Schulze ’03, the manager of Yale student laundry, said the new machines are slightly more expensive because they have a greater load capacity and require only a quarter the amount of detergent.
“It’s supposed to balance out in the end for the student because they can do more at once,” Schulze said. “It’s a nominal increase in price. If you go to any laundromat, it’s probably going to be twice as much [to do laundry].”
Lenore Estrada ’05, a YCC representative on the issues committee, researched the new machines to find out if they had any qualitative improvements that could justify the 25-cent cost increase. After contacting Mac-Gray, she learned that the new washers have an 18-pound load capacity, which is significantly greater than the 12-pound capacity of the old machines. In addition, she cited facts from Maytag, which told her that the new washers save 42 percent less water, 53 percent in energy costs, and 42 percent in sewer disposal.
“If we had found that they didn’t have more capacity and were still costing more, we would’ve done something,” Estrada said.
Yale student laundry is not earning greater profits from the higher prices, Schulze said; instead, the money will finance the cost of the new equipment. All money earned from the laundry machines is split among Yale student laundry, the University and Mac-Gray.
At meeting Tuesday night, the YCC could have passed a resolution condemning the price change or it could have contacted the administration directly to lower the price, Estrada said.
Kaplan said she came to the YCC simply looking for facts and was not planning to make any official complaint unless it was clearly evident that Yale was charging higher prices to reap greater profits from its students.
“I believe that certain aspects of the Yale business management structure should be break-even businesses,” Kaplan said. “When Yale buys new copy machines, does the price per copy go up?”