By Erin Bloodgood
Elm Staff Writer
I’ve been irked about the laundry situation at Washington College since I first arrived on campus in the fall of 2013. Having to lug my laundry down three flights of stairs to the basement of Minta Martin was not ideal. What’s worse is that I would then walk back downstairs only to find that the only dryer left open was the one that didn’t work.
When I moved to Worcester last semester, I hoped for the best. I soon realized that I needed to do two loads of laundry because the washing machine was too small, which wasn’t so bad until I realized that the dryer sometimes leaves my clothes uncomfortably damp. Consequently, I sometimes have to hang my clothes around my room to dry (there’s no way I’m paying another $1.50 to do the thing the dryer should have done the first time).
The worst part of the whole experience is putting bill after bill into the vending machine-esque boxes in Hodson. Two tiny, unassuming boxes that seem like they are mocking me every time they spit out my slightly wrinkled dollar bill.
My problems with the laundry operations here faded into the background until recently when Residence Life sent out a housing satisfaction survey. I read through the questions and marked my answers without much interest until I came upon the questions about the laundry facilities in my building. They asked if I was satisfied with the cost of doing a load of laundry (no) and they asked how many loads of laundry I do a week (two) and if I was either satisfied or dissatisfied with the laundry facilities in my building (obviously not). I responded that I was dissatisfied, and I was ready to voice my complaints when I clicked next, only to find that there was no box to write about my discontent.
This got me thinking. Where does all of the money that we all put into those little, menacing boxes go? Who gets that money, and what do they use it for? Why does my building have a small washer and a crappy dryer if I have to pay $3 per load of laundry? These were questions to which I needed answers.
After some research, I got most of them. Carl Crowe, associate vice president of Student Affairs, was very helpful in answering my questions. He told me that the SGA had voiced complaints about the laundry facilities here and that the college worked with Caldwell Gregory, an outside company in charge of supplying and maintaining the washers and dryers. Together, Crowe and Caldwell Gregory were able to fix and replace the washers and dryers on campus over winter break. Crowe said that if any problems arise, students can fill out a maintenance request and Buildings and Grounds would handle the problem. Crowe also told me that the money that we spend on doing laundry goes directly to Caldwell Gregory and that WC does not see any revenue from those machines.
Most of my questions were answered; I now knew to take up my dryer issue with B & G (although I do not see Worcester receiving a new, bigger washing machine anytime soon, but a girl can dream). However, I am still not satisfied. I need to know what Caldwell Gregory does with all of that money. As an average WC student, I do two loads of laundry a week (once again, because the washer in Worcester is small). Six dollars times a 16-week semester comes out to $96 per semester out of my pocket. Multiply that by the 1,400 students that go here and that’s $134,400 per semester. So what does Caldwell Gregory do with that money? I’m actually not sure. In his e-mail, Crowe said, “I suspect they are using it to pay for upkeep and new machinery. Basically, if it breaks or needs to be replaced, it’s on them.” Crowe suspects that’s what they do with the money, but is that what they really use it for? Crowe called the Caldwell Gregory representative, but they did not get back to him.
This leaves me with even more questions than I started with. How much of that money is re-invested back into the upkeep of old machines and the purchasing of new ones? Why does all of the money go to them? Why doesn’t anyone have the numbers offhand to know how much re-investment goes back into the maintenance of the machines? Why can’t Worcester or other buildings with older faulty machines get new ones? After all, the student’s money goes directly to Caldwell Gregory, and WC is not the only college that Caldwell Gregory supplies and manages. So next time you insert your partially crumpled dollar bill into those little boxes in Hodson, remember that we do not know for sure what it is being used for.