Yale College Council pushes for free campus laundry
Senators met with the Student Financial Services and a representative from Yale’s contracted machine company to discuss the perennial effort to make laundry services free.
Courtesy of Xander DeVries
$1.50 to use the washer, then another $1.50 for the dryer.
It might not sound like much, but members of the Yale College Council argue that laundry costs can add up quickly over a year and pose a financial strain. Over the last year, the body has doubled down on a longstanding push to make laundry free for all students.
“Paying $1.50 for every load of washing and drying adds up quickly, posing a real financial strain on the students of this institution,” Davenport College senator Amanda Buster ’25 wrote in an email to the News. “This price is calculated based on the current market, which Yale argues is currently far more expensive, but the truth of the matter is that Yale students should not have to pay for laundry in the first place.”
A survey conducted by the YCC in the spring revealed general student frustration with pricing as well as the ongoing maintenance issues that plague many college laundry rooms. Laundry services then appeared on many Senate candidates’ platforms in last April’s elections.
On Sept. 30, a group of senators met with Associate Director for Student Financial Services Heather Abati, as well as a representative from CSC Serviceworks, the company that services and maintains all machines on campus.
The aim of the meeting, YCC Speaker of the Senate Ryan Smith ’24 told the News, was to gather more information about the stipulations of the contract between Yale and CSC — a contract that is confidential, they were informed.
“It’s a frustrating issue, because Yale is entangled in various legal contracts, and we’ve been working on it for at least two years,” Smith wrote in an email to the News. “But we now know more about Yale’s laundry system than we ever have before and I’m hopeful that we can make progress.”
Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis declined to comment for this article.
A perennial issue
Laundry is by no means a new issue. Successive slates of senators have worked on laundry accessibility for at least the past three years based on perennial student complaints over cost, broken machines, servicing delays and laundry room cleanliness.
Emma Madsen ’25, a sophomore in Silliman, frequently finds her college’s laundry machines broken.
“It’s not just paying for laundry,” Madsen explained. “It’s that the laundry machines themselves are really bad, and they break down a lot in Silliman. It’s not really appropriate to only have four working washing machines and four working dryers for a college of five hundred kids.”
The News obtained previous proposals for free laundry presented to administrators by two previous slates of senators. The proposals focused on different aspects of the issue — from the fiscal impacts on University budget to the condition of laundry rooms and machines. Senators last year incorporated direct student testimony and pictures of laundry rooms to demonstrate their points.
But the Council’s high turnover rate has hindered meaningful progress.
“Because YCC did not have institutional memory on the issue, each year, a new group of senators made the same mistakes,” wrote Pierson senator Viktor Kagan ’24.
Kagan says senators this year are more aware of previous efforts, which could lead to a more effective strategy this year.
The language of Yale’s contract with CSC Serviceworks is confidential. But Jonathan Oates ’23, who worked on laundry accessibility as a senator two years ago, said he was able to get a gist of what the contract stated when he advocated that the administration make laundry free.
Oates explained that, per the contract, CSC owns the machines and is responsible for making all repairs and replacements when units break. Yale Facilities is responsible for maintenance of the laundry rooms.
The contract also states that Yale is responsible for collecting the payments from the machines, which is then split between Yale and CSC per the details of the contract. Yale loses money in the process, Oates claimed.
“It should be noted that on-campus laundry operates at a deficit, meaning Yale pays CSC ServiceWorks more than they bring in through fees,” Oates explained. “Yale continues to work with CSC ServiceWorks because it is cheaper to rent the machines than buy and maintain new ones. The question is: If Yale can operate at a deficit … why can’t they simply increase the subsidy?”
Some students said they felt that Yale’s refusal to pay for laundry was emblematic of larger accessibility problems in the University.
“I think having us pay for laundry is symbolic of Yale’s approach to undergraduate life,” Sourav Roy ’25 wrote in an email to the News. “It always feels like they skimp a bit on the silliest things.”
Roy added that paying for laundry is like “having a 15 dollar monthly subscription to a service” that should be subsidized by the University.
Five other students agreed, highlighting the disparities that these “subscriptions” can create within the Yale community. These hidden living fees, they say, pile on top of the room and board charges.
“Whenever you put a price on something, you’re making the implicit statement that it’s OK for somebody to go without it,” Nina Grigg ’24 wrote in an email to News. “It just adds to the invisible burden that [first-generation students] have to carry that other students might not even realize.”
Aaliyah Thomas ’26, who identifies as FGLI, was surprised to find that laundry costs money when she came to campus. She was under the impression that Yale, like multiple other universities, would cover that cost for students.
“So many other institutions have free laundry with way less money and resources, so Yale not having it is a bit ridiculous,” Thomas wrote in an email to the News. “I think it definitely poses accessibility issues for low-income students. I’ve seen many people do things like pool their laundry together in one load to get past it, and they shouldn’t have to do that.”
The road ahead
YCC delegates believe they are now on stronger footing than in previous years.
“In the past, the YCC has been trying to work on this issue without all the necessary information, and this [Sept. 30] meeting with administration was helpful to inform our future plans,” Smith explained.
For now, senators are optimistic that laundry could become one of this Senate’s signature wins. Kagan told the News that he is determined to overcome the issues that the YCC has faced on the matter in the past.
All Yale campus laundry machines can be operated through CSCPay Mobile App.