Students have long voiced concerns about laundry costs on campus. With the vast majority of Wellesley students living in on-campus housing, shelling out $3.00 for each load of laundry — $1.50 for a washer, another $1.50 for a dryer, operated by the outside vendor CSC ServiceWorks — is an unavoidable expense. Gabriela Leovan ’23, a QuestBridge Merit Scholar, said that these costs are especially prohibitive for low-income students.
“I already buy flights to come here, receive financial aid that still forces me to work part-time or more during the school year and struggle to support my family back at home,” Leovan said. “$1.50 may not seem like a lot for a load of laundry, but it adds up fast, even only doing laundry every two weeks.”
In response to concerns like Leovan’s, several groups of students have mobilized to advocate for including laundry in room and board costs, allowing students on financial aid to cover laundry costs. The Community Organizing Resource Collective (CORC), a College Government Committee, and the Wellesley chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) have both made contributions to the included laundry campaign this semester.
CORC first released a feedback form on on-campus laundry services in Feb. 2022, with an updated version sent to all students in Oct. 2022. Joni Lee ’23, Community Organizing and Inclusion Liaison (COIL), said that the purpose of the form is to develop “a comprehensive understanding of all the issues students face in the laundry rooms.”
“In addition to the high cost of doing laundry, we’ve learned that the long wait times to do laundry deter students from doing it,” Lee said. “Tower currently has six washers and six dryers for over 300 students. While we are tackling getting laundry included in our tuition, I see many more initiatives that could come from the data we’ve gathered, whether it be getting more laundry machines in larger dorms or making the laundry rooms more accessible.”
Independently, the Wellesley YDSA circulated a petition in support of included laundry in Nov. 2022, which can be found on the organization’s Instagram @wellesley_ydsa. Meghana Lakkireddy ’25, Wellesley YDSA co-president, said that students voiced concerns about laundry costs at the organization’s open meeting at the beginning of the school year, driving the creation of the petition and other actions to support the campaign. Additionally, they encouraged students to fill out the most recent iteration of the COIL’s laundry feedback form and to donate to the YDSA’s mutual aid fund created to “curb laundry inaccessibility in the interim.”
“I think we’ve raised around $500, which is really awesome,” Lakkireddy said. “But we did the math, and after splitting the laundry costs among all 12 dorms, it only evens out to about 10 loads of laundry per dorm … which really goes to show how inaccessible and how expensive laundry really is.”
CORC’s campaign is also underway.
“If it weren’t for the work of Deavihan [Scott ’22, last year’s COIL] and the previous and current CORC members, we would not be in the position to start working with [administrators] to see this project through finally,” Lee said. “Last year’s CORC also researched how students at peer institutions pay for laundry. For example, some students have subsidized laundry, access to using points to pay for it, or even laundry being tacked into the costs of housing for students … Going into this year, all [laundry] machines across campus have been replaced because [administrators] finally saw how awful and broken the laundry machines really were. Now, I am waiting to meet with [Vice President for Finance and Administration] Piper Orton to discuss what options we have that can feasibly address the high costs for students.”
Leovan said that free laundry would be highly beneficial to her. Given that she travels to school by plane, she cannot bring many clothes, which means that she must do her laundry frequently. However, the prohibitive costs of laundry deter her from doing her laundry, and she sometimes rewears clothes until they smell.
“I do not wash everything as much as I would like,” Leovan said. “I also do not separate clothes [by color]. I just wash everything [in] cold [water] and hope it turns out alright.”
Rhonna Bollig, associate director for Residential Life, said that students who are currently struggling to pay for laundry “are encouraged to meet with their financial aid advisor to review their unique aid package and discuss options for additional funding.”
“If you are interested in helping work to get laundry included in our tuition or the general effort to make laundry more affordable, feel free to come to the CORC’s weekly meetings from 6:30-7:30 [p.m.] in the OSI office or feel free to email me at email@example.com,” Lee said.
Lakkireddy said that organizing for included laundry is about more than the campaign’s immediate goal.
“Hopefully if we win this [campaign], it will be a sign for students that our voices and the power that we have on campus is very real, and that there are other things that we can organize around … to fix on this campus through collective action and making our voices heard,” they said.