ResLife Implements a Series of Changes, Including Free-Play Laundry

Effective for the beginning of fall semester, students will no longer have to pay $1.25 for each laundry wash or dry cycle, instead facing a $33 increase in residential fees to offset the costs of operating the laundry machines. The change to laundry payment, called the free-play laundry initiative, was jointly developed by the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) and the Office of Student Affairs (OSA).

The permanent elimination of pay-per-use laundry fees comes after the fees were temporarily suspended in February to compensate for a nearly week-long campus server outage, which left all students without school Wi-Fi and important services like Moodle and school email, and forced students to rack up charges on their personal cellular data for access to internet connection.

According to Chad LaDue, director of finance for the OSA, all residence halls received new laundry machines over the summer, with the exception of the Greenways, Valentine Hall and Marsh House, which already received new machines in the past few years.

LaDue said that if the college had kept the pay-per-use system, they anticipated that “with the installation of new machines, [the price] would have been at least $1.50 per cycle, a 20 percent increase.” He noted that other schools, including Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass Amherst, all had “per cycle fees between $1.50 and $1.75 last year.”

In an email sent to the student body, AAS cited concern over “the expected increase in the per-use fee associated with upgrading the laundry machines” as one of the primary reasons senators engaged in exploring the initiative.

“The Office of Student Affairs, along with other campus partners, worked diligently to negotiate a new contract with the college’s laundry service provider to limit a price increase for the community and engaged the AAS in exploring a free-play model,” the email stated.

“The typical student had previously spent $40 per semester to do laundry in the residence halls,” said LaDue in an email interview. “The residence hall fee increased this semester by only $33 to support the ‘free-play’ laundry service. If the per-cycle fee had increased as anticipated to $1.50, students would likely have spent $48 per semester on laundry. It is expected that the new ‘free-play’ service will save students $15 per semester on the cost of their laundry, with the added convenience of not needing to load AC dollars or find coins to do laundry.”

Some students expressed enthusiasm for the initiative. Tom Lupien ’22 said that he was “excited about this change because $33 in the bill is a lot less than what [he] would be spending over the course of the semester in individual laundry fees.”

“I think it makes life more convenient for Amherst students and I’m glad that they did it. I really dislike having to deal with quarters when I do my laundry,” added Patrick Spoor ’22. “Either way, in comparison to the daunting costs of going to Amherst, it’s rather minimal, I think. It’s just better that it’s easier to use.”

Laura Draucker, the director of sustainability, expressed some concerns about “the possibility of free-play increasing use of the laundry facilities,” in turn increasing energy usage, but also noted that data will be collected “to track use and compare over time.”

“The good news is that the new washers use 15 to 20 percent less water per wash than the older machines,” said Draucker. “In the meantime, the Eco-Reps and interns in the Office of Environmental Sustainability hope to partner with AAS and ResLife on outreach in the laundry rooms about best laundry practices to save water and energy such as using the cold wash when possible, reducing dryer usage — which uses significant electricity — and doing full loads. In the past, Eco-Reps have provided drying racks to residents of their dorms, and we hope students will consider this energy-free alternative even with free-play.”

ResLife has also implemented a number of other changes for the new school year.

The college removed the name for Taplin Hall, renaming it Residence Hall A, a placeholder name until it receives a new designation. The change of name comes after the family associated with the Taplin name asked for the college to remove it from the dormitory, according to Chief Communications Officer Sandy Genelius.

An update to the Student Code of Conduct over the summer will also prohibit students from removing or storing college-issued furniture outside of their assigned room, “except [for] those with prior written approval by Accessibility Services or other relevant College authority.”

Other operational changes include the removal of Tea Times — events that resident counselors hold with their floor to encourage social engagement — in favor of a broader array of activities that fall under the category of “programming.” According to Dean Gendron, senior associate dean of students, the change was implemented due to an expansion of programmatic goals to “address wellness, inclusion and service,” which Tea Time goals would not sufficiently represent.

“The events known as ‘Tea Times’ have been understood as social gatherings that serve a casual and convivial purpose in a local community,” Gendron wrote in an email interview.

“Resident Counselors are evolving their programming to a level beyond the scope of the Tea Time goals.”

These changes come after David Watts, former assistant director of student life, departed the college for Tufts over the summer. The departure leaves ResLife with six active members on their team. Currently, ResLife is looking to fill two vacancies, for a total of eight full-time positions: the role that Watts left behind and an operations assistant position. Last year, The Student reported that ResLife would be increasing its number of staff from eight to 11 people.

Watts was a well-known figure on campus due to his presence in student-attended ResLife events such as the suite selection process. The Amherst Muck-Rake, a satirical publication, also persistently parodied his role, featuring Watts in many Instagram posts.