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October 21, 2014

Laundry and the University

Laundry cash-to-card machines are part of a trend of the University showing disappointingly little support for its students.

Studying abroad is a double-edged sword. On one hand I’m undeniably having the best quarter of my life, while on the other I’m longing for a campus that I never thought I’d miss. I find myself trawling through the UChicago Yik Yak late at night in order to maintain a connection to campus, chuckling and cringing in equal portions; and I also read this very newspaper. That’s how, last week, I heard about this Bolsheviks with the laundry machines.

For those unfamiliar, at the beginning of the school year, the University removed the cash-to-card laundry machines from residence halls and replaced them with machines near Bart Mart and the Midway Market, as reported by Anne Nazzaro (“Dirty laundry hampered by payment relocation” [10/14/14]). This change occurred because the new laundry contract provides for two machines instead of five. As Executive Director of College Housing Jennifer Luttig-Komrosky told the Maroon, “the cash-to-card machines are conveniently located near residential dining commons.”

This may seem like a small trifle, a minute inconvenience that should simply be dealt with. And on a certain level it is—obviously our problems are small, our lives as students are quite easy and nice, and we should be careful to complain. But God-Downy, has Jennifer Luttig-Komrosky ever asked a college student about their laundry-doing process? I’m sure she’s a very nice lady and this decision may well be out of her hands, but something like 85 percent of college students do laundry something like this:

“Oh, shit, I’m out of underwear. Maybe I should do laundry.”

Gathers clothing, walks down to laundry room, skips the machines that will turn your clothes into an imploding pile of bubbles, loads the clothes into the machine.

“Oh, shit, I forgot the detergent.”

Goes back up three floors to get detergent, back down three floors to put it in the machine.

Tries to use ID to pay for laundry

“Oh, shit, my card’s empty.”

Goes to lobby, loads card, and, at long last, turns on the machine.

Students do not plan their laundry processes hours in advance, and while that’s not a huge problem now, come January I pity the poor freshman soul from California who somehow got placed into Broadview and has to traverse the snowy barren wasteland in their pajamas to get to Bart Mart and back.

Obviously this isn’t really a huge problem, as students are sometimes capable of planning ahead, and I’m sure quarter-dealing rings will pop up to fill demand, but it is extremely annoying. As an off-campus student, I don’t really have a dog in the laundry fight. Actually, scratch that, dogfighting is bad. As an off-campus student, I shouldn’t really be invested in this. It affects me in no tangible way. But this is yet another instance of the student body feeling like the University’s unloved middle child, following printer/copier prices inflating last year and the constant failed dining hall inspections.

UChicago is a research institution. Discovery and high-level inquiry are its calling cards. But it just seems just kind of shitty how students are treated. There is an overwhelming sense that once you get here, you’re on your own, that the school is here to instruct you, not support you.  Perhaps it’s a continuation of our school’s mind-over-all philosophy, but many students feel left all alone, forced to find their bearings themselves. Indeed, the epitomization of an academic support system, college advisers, are viewed by many students as useless and misinformed. Case in point: advisers who encourage their advisees to take more difficult classes, something some students don’t need. The University has countless opportunities to make the small things easier for students, but often neglects to do so.

The school treats us as adults in many ways the moment we step on campus. But cold turkey is not the best path to adulthood, and a more gradual path would be beneficial. We all came here to learn, but we mostly came here to grow, and do-or-die is no way to do that. And who knows, perhaps a little more institutional support would help boost student morale. Maybe our infamy for anguish would fade if we didn’t have to do so much alone.

The big problems of how the University treats its students, like those of the sexual assault policy and student health, are long journeys. But it’s not hard to fix the little things. It really can’t be difficult to find some rich alumnus who wants his name on something to help us out. I’d use the Arley D. Cathey Memorial Cash-to-Card Machine (sorry, it was just so easy, I had to).

The University needs to step up its game in all regards to how it treats students, especially the serious problems that concerns students’ immediate mental and emotional well-being. But in the meantime, let’s not make laundry more of a pain in the ass than it already is.

Liam Leddy is a third-year in the College majoring in economics.

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