“Equal Access to Basic Necessity”: YDSA Petitions for Free Laundry on Campus

The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter at Andover recently started a petition for free laundry on campus. They argue that charging students for laundry, a basic living expense, disproportionately impacts low-income students. The solution they are working towards is providing prepaid laundry cards for every boarding student.

Boarding students at Andover currently have the choice of using the washing and drying machines in most dormitories to do laundry, which costs about four dollars a week, or paying for the E&R laundry service, which runs from $759-$1679 for service throughout the entire school year. The YDSA aims to eliminate these laundry costs altogether so students are able to do laundry without worrying about the cost.

Joyce Li ’23, the founder of the YDSA chapter at Andover, started petitioning for free laundry after learning about a similar campaign organized by the YDSA chapter at Boston University. She realized that it would be a feasible goal, considering free laundry is something almost every student can agree on, and decided to start the petition through the YDSA.

“Boston University also had a campaign for it. The chapter of YDSA at Boston University was very successful. I saw that and I was like, ‘Well, that’s something that’s very achievable.’ It is universally approved by the student body and is also something that I think is very much a no-brainer for the administration to enact,” said Li.

One main problem with the current laundry policy at Andover is that the expenses can be prohibitive for low-income students according to Li. Many students do laundry less frequently or use colder water in order to avoid spending too much money on laundry. Students who are on financial aid and receive a weekly stipend are also forced to spend that money on laundry.

“It’s just crazy how much we’re spending on it. Every week, and sometimes more than every week, students are forced to ration out their laundry: they can’t separate blacks and whites in their clothing or they have to wait to wash stained clothing. For many people on financial aid, it just shouldn’t be coming from their stipend. I think that’s really unfair and really wrong, because it’s a necessity—you can’t function at Andover or in contemporary society with gross clothes,” said Li.

Ava Chen ’24, who does her own laundry using the washing machine in her dormitory, believes that the costs of laundry should be included within a student’s tuition, considering it to be a basic need for every student.

“I feel like laundry should be free because it’s a basic necessity. Also, we’re already paying so much for tuition—even with financial aid—I feel like laundry is one of those things that should be included with the tuition. It’s also so inconvenient if you live very far from Commons or GW, because you have to go across campus just to fill up your laundry card,” said Chen.

Aside from the exorbitant cost, paying for laundry every week can also be inconvenient for many students. There are only two laundry card machines on campus—one in Paresky Commons and the other in George Washington Hall—and the machines do not allow one dollar bills.

“For laundry card machines on campus—there’s only two of them. And they only accept cash and they don’t accept ones. So it’s a huge hassle. And it’s extremely expensive. And it really adds up over time. Especially compared to a lot of other schools, universities that do have free laundry. It’s just crazy how much we’re spending on it,” said Li.

The current system of paying for E&R or doing laundry in the dormitory also emphasizes the divide between students of different socioeconomic status, according to Max Berkenbilt ’24, one of the YDSA Co-Heads. Within dorms, there is often a gap between students who receive E&R and students who do their own laundry, alongside equal access to laundry machines.

“E&R is also an illustrator of class divide within dorms of who gets E&R and who doesn’t pay. And so with that, nobody really has a good option. Additionally, a lot of dorms don’t actually have functioning washing machines in them, and [students living in those dorms] have to go to other dorms in order to wash their clothing or if their laundry machine breaks, suddenly, an entire dorm is out and they have to go somewhere else. The entire laundry system is just really inconvenient and needs to be updated,” said Berkenbilt.

The YDSA is currently planning to send a letter to the Deans explaining the problems they see in the current laundry system and proposing three viable solutions: prepaid laundry cards for every student, asking school’s financial support with laundry costs, or removing the costs altogether.

“The main potential solution we are looking at is asking the school to give students pre-paid laundry cards to use. This would be the least logistically different from the current system. Another solution would be asking the school to own the laundry machines and remove the laundry card system altogether. The third solution would be asking school to subsidize the laundry cost, not cutting as a whole but reducing the current price since the pricing is very high,” said Li.

Aiden Wang ’22, one of the Co-heads for YSDA at Andover, considers laundry a simple, basic necessity for all students and believes that the current system only serves to emphasize the inequalities between students. As such, they believe that the school should cover the cost of laundry for all students.

“For a school that prides itself on equity, it just seems very disingenuous not to provide such a basic right,” said Wang.