Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

November 14, 2023

North Campus Residents Express Frustration Over Costly, Malfunctioning Laundry Machines

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As first-year Cornellians adapt to the independence of college life, they must navigate the challenges of doing their own laundry — which some students said Cornell’s student laundry system makes difficult, citing malfunctioning machines and the extra costs residents must pay to use them. 

Given the significant housing fee the University charges students to live on campus — approximately $12,000 per year for a double room — Cornellians such as Shalini Ramakrishnan ’27 expressed belief that campus laundry machines should be free to use.

“The laundry service should be free, and the quality should be improved because we are already paying so much to be here,” Ramakrishnan said.

The washing machines in Cornell’s residence halls cost $1.75 per cycle, and the dryers cost $1.30. If a student washes and dries their clothes once per week for the entire academic year, they will end up paying a total of nearly $100 to do their laundry. 

Karen Brown, senior director of campus life marketing and communications, told The Sun that it is difficult for the University to track each individual’s laundry use.

“Students have such a varied need for quantity and frequency of laundry — [therefore], it’s appropriate to charge per use,” Brown wrote in an email to The Sun. 

In addition to the costs, students have also reported ongoing maintenance issues with the laundry facilities. 

Out of the 14 washing machines in Mary Donlon Hall, only four seemed to be operating to serve the dorm’s 450 first-year residents as of Oct. 12, according to Spencer Hom ’27, a Donlon resident.

“It’s honestly a little disappointing that our laundry service is not funded, and in times that we need them, they are not available to us,” Hom said.

Other Donlon residents also expressed frustration with the lack of available working laundry machines — such as Patrick Fang ’27, who described the laundry situation as “frustrating and unfair.” 

Malfunctioning laundry machines are not exclusive to Donlon. Alejandro Rojas ’27, who lives in Low Rise #6, noted that the limited number of working laundry machines has sparked tensions within the residence hall’s community.   

“Since there are only four laundry machines [for Low Rise 6 residents] — of which three are actually functioning — laundry is done in a hostile environment, because everybody is waiting to take your laundry out so they can do theirs,” Rojas said. 

After almost two weeks, on Oct. 25, all of the laundry machines in Mary Donlon Hall had been fixed, according to Brown. 

Cornell currently partners with CSC ServiceWorks, a third-party laundry operation. Through the company’s app — CSCPay Mobile — students are able to deposit money to pay for their laundry. The app also includes features that alert users when their laundry has finished washing. 

“We continue to work with the vendor, and they have committed to replacing all machines older than 2021 in the summer of 2024,” Brown wrote.

To maintain functioning laundry machines in dormitories, Brown suggested students refrain from overloading machines, use a small amount of liquid detergent and avoid using detergent sheets or putting detergent pods in the liquid detergent dispenser. Cornell’s Housing and Residential Life website also directs students to LaundryView, where users can monitor the availability of laundry machines in their dorms. 

Still, Donlon residents remain frustrated by the frequent malfunctions in the laundry system.

“I feel like it is unfair that we are all paying the same tuition as other dorms, yet most of our washing machines are not working,” said Donlon resident Maham Khan ’27.  “And there seems to be no incentive for people to come in or resources to fix them.”

Florence Cheung ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].