An Update on the Fight For Free Laundry

An Update on the Fight For Free Laundry

With voting starting on Monday, March 27 for 2023-2024 Bates College Student Government (BCSG) positions, the free laundry debate undergoes another wave of popularity.

This issue is not exclusive to the class of 2026, but it seems to be high on the priority list for at least three candidates running in the BCSG election. “I believe that this is more of a class of 2026 initiative as a whole…we just got here and…for some reason, it puts a burden on us specifically,” Aleisha Martinez Sandoval ’26, a co-presidential candidate, said.

“I think free laundry is a very hot topic for everyone…it’s a unifying campaign issue,” Robbie Washburne ’26, a candidate for student representative, said.

Trinity Monstwillo ’26, another student representative candidate, said that one of her friends was washing their clothes by hand at the beginning of the semester due to the high cost of laundry. Both Washburne and Monstwillo list free laundry as one of their issues they hope to advocate for should they be elected as representatives.

Monstwillo suggested, “Maybe taking money away from things that aren’t as desirable or well received by the students. I would personally say the Ice Age March… I don’t know how much they spent on that, but like the little tumblers and the hats, I don’t see very many people walking around with them.”

The high cost of laundry has been on students’ minds for years, but some are getting tired of the lack of progress. 

“I haven’t seen any movement this year from anyone. I mean, I wasn’t here before, but I’ve heard from seniors … nothing’s really changed,” Washburne said.

Despite the new candidates, this fight for free laundry at Bates has been going on for a while. Last year, Oyuka Lyndon ’25 and Manuel Machorro Gomez Pezuela ’25, current BCSG representatives, ran on a free laundry platform. They emphasized that because free laundry is achievable at other NESCACs, it should be achievable at Bates.

Indeed, other NESCAC schools’ laundry programs became free through student government efforts. In 2021, Wesleyan University introduced the Included Use laundry program, which allows administration to incorporate laundry fees into already existing budgets. This initiative came about as a result of issues ranging from financial barriers to washers and dryers breaking from overloading machines; issues that are, as voiced by BCSG and students alike, applicable to Bates as well. Additionally, though not a NESCAC, Boston University has now implemented a free laundry policy following student campaigns for free laundry in 2020 and 2021. 

Currently, the BCSG Facilities Committee has a draft in progress for the first steps towards free laundry for Bates students. Though this plan is still in its early stages, it has been proposed that students in the extraneous financial aid bracket who are paying less than $10,000 in tuition per year should be given a “baby grant” of $25 per month for laundry. 

“We do want to expand it for the whole school, because…we’re paying tuition, we…have a right to use the facilities. But…it’s important that we’re very real with the population, and that we’re doing things first small, and then hopefully [we’re] able to expand it,” Martinez Sandoval said.

Bates has also just gained a new college president, Garry Jenkins. BCSG Candidates are hopeful that this new leadership will lead the fight for free laundry in a positive direction.

“[Jenkins] worked with a bank for a long time…he knows how to raise funds, or he knows how to use them appropriately. From what I’ve heard [from] the Presidential Search Committee, he understands Bates, and he knows what needs to be improved in the school…I really look forward to working with him in the future,” Martinez Sandoval commented.

“I definitely think [Jenkins] helps our chances [of getting free laundry]… some people have had complaints about lack of communication with the current Bates president. And I think that since there’s a new president, we can kind of take advantage of that and form a connection with him,” Monstwillo said.

With new leadership on the way, the fight for free laundry continues. More progress is promised, and students can only hope to see that change come true soon.