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Opinion: UCLA Housing must improve laundry facilities in new university apartments

(Helen Juwon Park/Daily Bruin)

By Olivia Simons

Jan. 11, 2024 7:11 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 12 at 12:45 a.m. 

In fall 2022, UCLA Housing opened up three new university apartment buildings near Westwood Village to provide an additional 2,300 beds for students.

Everything was brand new, in theory, including the furniture, appliances and laundry facilities.

Despite the novel facade and high expectations, these three buildings – Laurel, Tipuana and Palo Verde – have been plaguing students with the same laundry woes that many UCLA dorm and apartment dwellers alike have long faced. These grievances ranged from clothes coming out of the dryer damp, and lack of available or functional machines to delays in maintenance.

“There’s been some (issues with) the washers but mostly the dryers don’t dry super well,” said third-year business economics student Maggie Higginbotham. “They (maintenance) also take kind of a long time to get repairs done. And no one there really told you how the process worked for the laundry machines. You just kind of had to figure it out.”

With these frequent issues in mind, UCLA Housing must work to provide reliable, high-quality laundry facilities in all buildings and install enough machines to accommodate a large number of residents. Regular maintenance should also be made a priority, alongside increased transparency about how to use laundry facilities and how the repair and maintenance process works.

Along with dryers failing to fully dry clothing, students have encountered issues with machines not properly cleaning their items and complications with the WASH-Connect app used to start machines and accessibility concerns. These issues all suggest UCLA Housing needs to put in more effort to provide better laundry services to its residents.

Elvia Mendez, a fourth-year international development studies student, said she began experiencing issues with the laundry facilities in Tipuana as soon as she moved in last fall.

According to Mendez, none of the machines worked for around the first month she lived there, meaning Mendez and the rest of the residents in Tipuana had to use the laundry rooms in Laurel and Palo Verde.

“Coming from Westwood Chateau, I was excited to have new washers,” Mendez said. “But it was very frustrating for the first month … because it was like, ‘Oh, if we’re having these new buildings, why doesn’t our laundry machines work?’ I think it was something that was definitely rushed. It was kind of like, if you’re going to have people move in, at least have all the amenities secured.”

According to an emailed statement from UCLA Housing, the new buildings’ machines are under the same contractual obligations as the rest of the machines across all of UCLA’s residence buildings when it comes to warranties and service levels, receiving reported issues nearly every 24 hours.

Given the frequency of issues, UCLA Housing should be working to install better-functioning facilities to both reduce the volume of complaints and acknowledge the inefficiency of the machines in the first place.

Higginbotham, who lived on the Hill for the past two years and moved into Palo Verde in fall quarter, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the issues she has experienced using the laundry facilities in one of the newest UCLA Housing buildings.

“I expected it to be better, or I wanted it to be better, because you’d think that a new building would have new machines. But I wasn’t surprised to see that they weren’t and that things are still already broken,” Higginbotham said.

When issues arise with washers and dryers in UCLA Housing laundry rooms, students in apartments can report the problem on the support tab on the WASH-Connect app or to their building front desks for Hill residents. However, the process of reporting can become taxing and oftentimes requires more effort than what it is worth to inform Housing that a dryer does not fulfill its intended purpose.

According to UCLA Housing, it receives reports daily of issues across the 1,400 machines on and off campus, which are typically addressed within 24 hours.

“Although WASH is onsite daily, we rely on residents and staff to report issues as well,” Housing said in the statement. “It would not be possible to run loads in all machines regularly to test machines so it is important for users (residents) to report issues found. Front desk staff do rounds of the laundry rooms and report any visible problems as well.”

However, it should not be the role of residents to constantly have to inform those in charge of laundry services that the machines they pay to clean their garments are not working properly. Students should be able to expect that their clothes will be properly washed and dried the first time without needing to worry about reporting issues, spending additional wash fees or having to wait for a machine to get fixed.

Mendez said she noticed that some washers and dryers in the Tipuana laundry room work better than others, prompting her to stick to the same machines every time she does laundry.

However, this may present challenges when reliable machines are in use or become dysfunctional. On top of having to do the chore itself, the added mental labor and time spent figuring out which machines work can cause unnecessary barriers to a basic amenity UCLA Housing provides.

Admittedly, college students are not the most responsible individuals and can be the cause of other residents’ gripes with machines, such as leaving clothing in the washing and drying machines long after the cycle has finished.

Mendez said, if students made more of an effort to move their clothes along in the process in an efficient manner, issues with machine availability would be, in part, alleviated.

While students can certainly do more to be responsible for their belongings, this cannot detract from the fact that there are not enough functioning machines relative to the high student population or that UCLA cannot provide adequate services no matter how old the building is.

“Obviously laundry, it’s a chore, it’s going to take a bit of time no matter what you do,” Higginbotham said. “But, (it) could be fun to have the machines work properly.”

Issues such as improperly dried laundry, constantly broken machines and other concerns should not be commonplace at a top-tier university. UCLA Housing must do more to ensure more reliable facilities for its students.

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Olivia Simons | Quad editor
Simons is the 2023-2024 Quad editor. She was previously the 2022-2023 managing editor, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats. She is also a fourth-year student from Oakland, California.
Simons is the 2023-2024 Quad editor. She was previously the 2022-2023 managing editor, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats. She is also a fourth-year student from Oakland, California.
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