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Opinion: Laundry should be free of charge to limit financial burdens, minimize expenses

(Hayley Vu/Daily Bruin staff)

By Angelina Alkhouri

Feb. 21, 2024 10:18 p.m.

Whether they did their laundry as a household chore during childhood or just learned during their first year of college, residents living on the Hill quickly discover that they are each responsible for owning a laundry basket, detergent and dryer sheets, as well as managing the funds to afford washing and drying.

Cleanliness is a basic necessity, and the costs of laundry on campus add to the staggering list of fees imposed on UCLA students and their families. The additional costs of laundry can multiply, disproportionately impacting low-income students.

Universities across the state, including UC Santa Barbara and UC Merced, have granted students access to washers and dryers free of charge. UCLA Housing should follow in their footsteps in order to reduce financial burdens on students.

The stress of maintaining good academic standing is already enough to handle, but managing finances is yet another college task. Students often experience financial burdens in paying for tuition costs, along with housing, transportation, textbooks and other monthly expenses. While laundry may not seem expensive for a single load, the cost compounds into another unaffordable expense on top of other financial responsibilities.

Students run an estimated 3,000 loads of laundry per day on UCLA’s campus, UCLA spokesperson Katherine Alvarado said in an emailed statement.

Therefore, taking into account the $1.50 fee for washing and $1.25 fee for drying, this computes to a daily income of $8,250 for UCLA.

With student debt being a grave concern among students, it goes without question that minute fees like laundry further place students in compromising financial situations.

Although Bruins have normalized paying for laundry, organizations at other universities have advocated for a new normal.

Brown University granted students free laundry during the COVID-19 pandemic but reinstated its $1.50 per load fee in fall 2022. This policy change led the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at Brown University to petition for free laundry for all students living on campus. In November 2022, the petition began circulating, with the university accepting its demand in March, said Rithika Ramesh, a first-year political science and rhetoric student at UC Berkeley and YDSA representative, in an emailed statement.

Inspired by the success at Brown University, UC Berkeley’s YDSA chapter is currently fighting for the same access to free laundry in a campaign to uphold housing justice.

“Policies like rent control, affordable housing, and tenant’s rights all begin with demanding accountability from landlords, and as students in the dorms, the UC is our landlord,” Ramesh said in the statement.

As a multibillion-dollar institution, the UC has more than enough funds to cover students’ laundry fees. It is evident that policies often favor the university’s needs, but it’s time students are prioritized. There is great power and efficacy in uniting voices and advocating for policies that uphold equity.

Nevertheless, UCLA Housing does not intend to reduce rates since the university is already below market rates. Collected funds go back into general housing reserves, which assist the overall housing program including the upkeep of buildings and maintenance, Alvarado added in the statement.

Milla Shafie, an undeclared second-year student, said she runs around four loads of laundry per month, paying the costs with money saved up from a summer job.

While students with financial emergencies can receive help from the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office and the Economic Crisis Response Team, this does not negate the fact that students are undeniably being burdened with paying for a basic necessity, which reflects a broader systemic issue that must be addressed.

“In college and living alone, there’s so many little things to pay for,” Shafie said. “Laundry on top of that is just another little payment. Even if it’s not that much, it adds up.”

Student voices must be heard as they express their concerns and call for free laundry.

UC Berkeley YDSA created a petition with over 500 signatures, collected endorsements from Associated Students of the University of California senators and campus organizations, and delivered a letter to the Residential Life administration at a rally Feb. 6. Additionally, it flyered dorm buildings and ran a social media campaign to voice student frustration, Ramesh said in the statement.

UCLA should follow in UC Berkeley’s footsteps and pursue free laundry. Voicing student concerns will compel the university to take action, ultimately contributing to a more equitable environment.

The UC is more than an education system – it is also the third-largest employer in California and landlord of around 106,000 students. It is critical that students and staff hold the UC accountable.

Free laundry must become a standard at UCLA because students’ right to cleanliness shouldn’t be yet another expense.

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