Up-front cost or pay-as-you-wash?

    In addition to voting on Student Assembly candidates this Thursday, students will take part in a referendum about changing the way students pay for laundry. The referendum would recommend changing the current pay-per-use system to one where all students pay an extra $20 in room fees at the beginning of each semester, then receive unlimited access to laundry machines.

    p. Advertised as the “free laundry bill,” the proposal would be revenue-neutral. Residence Life estimates that the laundry fee of $20 per semester would cover all costs, based on talks with Caldwell & Gregory, its laundry vendor.

    p. The Facebook.com group for the referendum had over 700 members as of Wednesday, but there was debate on the discussion boards. Critics pointed out that if students did not have to pay for each load, they might use more washers or do laundry more often, which would waste water and raise the cost for other students.

    p. Chancellor Professor of Economics Robert Archibald agreed that students would do more laundry because they would not have to pay for each load.

    p. “The economics is pretty straightforward,” he said.

    p. However, Deb Boykin, director of Residence Life at the College, said that she did not expect increased use of the laundry machines.

    p. “Who do you know that likes to do laundry?” she said.

    p. She also said that other universities had not seen an increase in use after implementing similar payment plans. SA senator and sponsor of the bill Andrew Blasi, ’10, agreed.

    p. “One dollar and 25 cents per load is itself not a large enough deterrent to prevent a person from really doing as many loads as currently necessary,” he said.

    p. Professor Archibald acknowledged that the monetary cost may not be the main reason students avoid doing laundry, but said that the effect of not making students pay was still clear: they would do more laundry.

    p. “It’s an empirical question about the magnitude of the effect. But the direction is clear,” he said.

    p. Another issue is the fairness of making all students pay for a service that not everyone uses and that some use more than others.

    p. “Clean people would be helped out by the more slovenly,”
    Archibald said. “There might also be a gender discrepancy.”

    p. Blasi argues that there were other services that all students pay for, even if they might not use them.

    p. “For the few who live in a dorm/apartment who do not already utilize the laundry machines, they will now have access to the machines through their room fee in much the same way many of us currently pay for kitchen facilities that we may or may not use,” he said.

    p. Residence Life supports the proposal because it hopes the new system would be less of a hassle for students. According to Deb Boykin, several other colleges operate under the proposed system, although some have per semester fees of as high as $80. If the referendum passes, the BOV will still have to decide whether to accept the plan and increase room fees.


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