After a 10-year struggle, the Yale College Council can now claim victory: the council has convinced administrators to put soap dispensers in dormitory bathrooms.
Yale students in all 12 residential colleges will be able to lather up at the University’s expense by this September, said Carmine Amento, the director of customer services for Facilities. Students in Calhoun, Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges have had access to University-purchased soap since January as part of a YCC trial program, and Amento said the trial has been successful. The new dispensers will contain foam soap so as to require less refilling than liquid-soap dispensers, and will be attached to bathroom walls with adhesive so as not to damage the tile, YCC Soap Committee chair Steven Engler ’07 said.
“It goes to show that the administration cares,” Engler said. “It just takes a little bit of persistence.”
Following the initial test period, Engler and Amento designed a survey for students from participating colleges, Engler said, and the survey responses were almost all positive. Of the 233 respondents, 89 percent said they used the soap on a daily basis. But the soap did not change the washing habits of a majority of the students. Only 42 percent said they washed more frequently, while 54 percent said their practices did not change.
Virtually all of the comments left by students at the end of the survey praised the effort to bring free soap into dorm bathrooms, although some mentioned problems with the dispensers themselves and the particular soap used.
“I like the soap pilot program, but I don’t like the foam soap,” one respondent said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s the right consistency to actually kill any kind of bacteria.”
Another respondent complained that the adhesive used to attach the dispensers to the walls is not strong enough and that the dispenser in his or her suite often fell to the floor.
Paul Genecin, the director of University Health Services, said he thinks the soap dispenser installation represents an important practical health measure.
“This has been an issue for many years,” he said. “It is an important public health measure to promote washing hands after using the bathroom … to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases.”
Genecin said college students are particularly at risk for getting sick, as shared dormitory bathrooms and large dining halls facilitate the transmission of viral and bacterial diseases.
YCC Rep. Bill Fishel ’08, a resident of Calhoun, said the pilot program was a success and that it is high time that Yale provide soap.
“It’s something that is a sanitary part of living,” Fishel said. “It is kind of sad that Yale hasn’t had soap for this long.”
But Gabriel Diaz ’08, who lives in Silliman College, said he is indifferent to the prospect of having soap available in his bathroom.
“I think we live in a hyper-medicalized society,” he said. “Washing one’s hands is unnecessary.”
Still, Stephen Sherrill ’09 said he looks forward to being able to use free soap next year, but said he does not understand why it has taken so long.
“I think it’s silly,” he said. “If public bathrooms at airports can have soap, then why can’t we? This is Yale, after all.”
Eric Uscinski, the director of facilities operations, told the News in January that a campus-wide soap program would cost roughly $100,000 a year, according to preliminary estimates. Uscinski could not be reached for comment Sunday night.