By Tyler Hill
If the new University-stocked dispensers installed in three residential colleges’ bathrooms are deemed cost-effective, all Yalies may soon be able to wash their hands of paying for soap, Yale officials and Yale College Council representatives said.
After nearly a decade of lobbying for soap dispensers in communal dormitory bathrooms, the YCC, with help from the Council of Masters, has succeeded in persuading the University to institute a pilot program for liquid and foam soap dispensers in Calhoun, Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges. University officials will consider installing dispensers in all of the residential colleges and on Old Campus based on the results of this trial program, YCC Soap Committee chair Steven Engler ’07 said.
“Yale students place a high value on being healthy so that we can make the most of our experience at Yale, and … making soap available to Yale students should be an integral component of the basic health services that Yale provides,” the Council wrote in a letter to Associate Vice President for Facilities Operations John Bollier.
Through the pilot program, Yale officials hope to determine the potential costs of a school-wide program and make sure that expansion of soap to the rest of campus would not put a burden on the custodial staff, said Judith Krauss, master of Silliman College and chair of the Council of Masters.
“We’ll all have to wait for the pilot program to conclude before we know if this will be implemented in all the colleges, but assuming that cost and work issues are in line, it would be implemented college-wide,” Krauss said in an e-mail.
A campus-wide program would cost roughly $100,000 a year, according to preliminary estimates, Director of Facilities Operations Eric Uscinski said.
The issue of soap in bathrooms has been a perennial one for the YCC. In fall 1996, YCC representatives met with administrators and Corporation fellows to discuss putting soap, shelves and two-ply toilet paper in bathrooms. While the campaign to add shelves in bathrooms — which began with a pilot program similar to the soap trial — was ultimately successful, the YCC remained unable to secure soap in the bathrooms.
In 2001, officials from the YCC presented a several-hundred-thousand-dollar plan to install soap dispensers, which the Provost’s Office deemed too expensive. Since then, administrators have nixed similar proposals due to cost, potential damage to walls and labor opposition.
The most recent unsuccessful attempt to bring soap to bathrooms was a proposal brought to Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg by the Freshman Class Council this fall. Although Trachtenberg could not approve the proposal, she told the freshmen they should continue working on the soap issue, FCC Issues Committee chair Zach Marks ’09 said.
In addition to the letter from the committee, Bollier received a letter from Louise-Marie Dembry, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine, explaining the importance of soap in bathrooms.
“Hand washing is one of the most important activities that one can do to prevent transmission of organisms and infection,” Dembry said in the letter. “This is just as true in community living settings, such as dormitories, as it is in health care facilities. Improved hand hygiene in community settings has been shown to reduce disease transmission, absenteeism and physician visits.”
YCC Representative Bill Fishel ’08, who lives in Calhoun, said he and his suitemates appreciate the new dispensers in the bathroom on their floor.
“It is absolutely an improvement over what it used to be like,” he said. “It’s soap, it seems like not that big of a deal, but being able to have guests wash their hands is part of living in a civilized community.”