Dear Phillips Academy Andover Deans and Administrators,
We are part of a student campaign on campus advocating towards free laundry for all. We believe that Andover’s current laundry system is inequitable and in dire need of reform. Our main request is that laundry machines in dorms become free to use for all students. As it stands, the cost of laundry on campus presents a major barrier to accessing a basic necessity, disproportionately impacting lower- and middle-income students. As a school that not only prides itself on equity and inclusion but also promotes non sibi, we must work to remove the financial burden the current laundry system places on students.
In April 2022, a survey was released to students through Instagram (@pa.ydsa) asking how they felt about Andover’s current laundry policy. 177 students responded; most described spending 15 to 20 dollars on laundry each month, with 37.2 percent of respondents spending over 20 dollars on laundry every month; one load of laundry is around four dollars. Included below are just a fraction of the responses we received expressing how laundry impacted them:
“I rarely do laundry because I’m so stressed about the cost.”
“[Laundry] is very expensive and takes away from being able to buy school supplies like calculators.”
“I receive 25 dollars from the school each week and at least six dollars of that goes to laundry, because if I don’t want to ruin my clothes, I need to do more than one load of laundry. I end up having so little for myself.”
“I hate having to choose between buying things I need (soap, tissues, etc) and paying for laundry. The money I get from the school doesn’t feel like it’s mine because it’s going right back into the school.”
“For students in the lower-income range, I think that it disproportionately affects us.”
Less affluent students may have fewer clothes, which would necessitate spending more money to wash clothes more frequently. Due to the cost of laundry, many students are forced to rewear stained clothes or are unable to wash their whites separately. They end up overloading dryers, thus making their clothes not dry properly. Overloading the machines causes them to need frequent repair, both inconveniencing the whole dorm, and requiring extra maintenance and repair.
Further, many other comparable schools and universities have free washers and dryers in the dorms. Phillips Exeter Academy, for example, began offering students free washers and dryers in their dorms during the 2021-22 school year. Stanford University, the University of Connecticut, Davidson College, and the University of Cincinnati, among many other institutions, also offer free laundry. Andover must provide free access to washers and dryers to join them and reduce the financial burdens its students face every day. Asking students to cover the cost of such a basic necessity sends the wrong message about who does and doesn’t belong at this institution.
There are multiple solutions that Andover can adopt to either make laundry free or reduce the cost of laundry. These include:
III. Subsidizing the cost of laundry by covering part of what students spend on laundry. Ideally, one of the other options would be taken.
We are more than open to having conversations about our solutions and any others suggested. We understand that these solutions may be costly, though we believe that the cost is more than justified by providing students with financial freedom and creating a more equitable community. We also know that it may take a few years to achieve the best solution, but we would like to talk about steps towards that solution as a beginning. Additionally, we believe that the solution must be universal; we reject any level of means-testing as it renders programs far more vulnerable to cuts. A universal solution would unite the student body and be more effective while creating a future where the notion of paying for something so essential as laundry becomes inconceivable at Andover. Indeed, we believe that this school needs to make a statement: that at an institution like Andover, nobody should have to worry about paying for basic necessities.
Joyce Li, Max Berkenblit, AJ Rodriguez
Free Laundry for All Campaign Student Leaders
Editor’s Note: The Free Laundry for All Campaign Student Leaders are affiliated with the PA chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA). This letter was sent to the administration on May 26, 2022, accompanied by the signatures of 336 members of the student body. The letter has been edited for clarity, but The Phillipian did not alter any of the original content.