In the late evening of Sept. 7, Lucy Fleming ’16 opened the dryer in the Saybrook College laundry room to an unpleasant surprise.
Her clothes were soiled with human feces, and it took the physical delivery of the excrement to the Saybrook Master’s Office to catch administrators’ attention.
In the past several weeks, an unknown individual or group, who students have dubbed the ‘poopetrator,’ has repeatedly defecated in students’ laundry, leaving many fearful about the safety of their clothes. After an additional episode was reported on Sept. 26, Saybrook Master Paul Hudak announced that Yale Police has officially joined the investigation and is seeking further information.
“We have asked our students not to leave their laundry unattended, the affected machines have been thoroughly disinfected, and we are actively seeking information about who the perpetrator might be,” Hudak told the News. “That’s about all we can do.”
The incident has sparked concern throughout campus. Although Yale Police could not be reached for comment, the Yale College Council said in an email to the News that they would speak with the Council of Masters to see whether any changes to laundry access need to made.
On Sept. 6, Fleming said, two other Saybrook students — Fleming’s suitemate and her suitemate’s boyfriend — were first targeted, as their clothes were soiled with urine and food waste. The next day, when Fleming’s clothes were also urinated upon, she re-washed and dried them only to find that excrement had ruined them.
“I simultaneously wanted to throw up, cry and punch someone,” Fleming said.
Many students expressed desire to have the Saybrook laundry room watched by security guards — but in the meantime, Saybrook undergraduates have already taken matters into their own hands. Students have been standing watch over the machines, said Camille Fonseca ’16.
But she added that most students think the severity of the incidents warrants 24/7 security.
“It’s ruining people’s quality of life,” Fonseca said.
Although several students reported rumors that the incidents have since spread to other residential colleges such as Silliman College, administrators have not confirmed whether this is the case. For now, most of the concern is still focused on Saybrook, and several students — such as Mitchell Jones ’16 of Berkeley College — said they would not feel comfortable doing their laundry in Saybrook.
Of a dozen students interviewed, all said they wished to see the perpetrator disciplined. However, opinions diverged on what the exact punishment should be.
Owen Kaye-Kauderer ’16 said that because the ideals of trust and character touted by the University had been violated, the individual should be expelled, while others said the situation warranted a more rehabilitative approach involving mental health resources.
“The fact that this could happen at Yale is shocking to me,” Fleming said. “Think about what this means for our community.”
At least four incidents in the Saybrook laundry room regarding soiled laundry have occurred in the past month.