- Created on Thursday, 03 April 2003 03:21
- Written by Jim Swansbrough
According to Terry, the Davidson system of mandatory laundry service for all students is unique nationwide. Incoming first year students receive a letter from the college laundry describing the service and prescribing their personal laundry number for the next four years. Students write or sew the number onto each piece of clothing before they arrive on campus.
Students may drop their dirty laundry off at the laundry at any time during business hours. Machine washable items go in one bin, and shirts and pants that need dry cleaning go in another bin. Laundry workers separate the whites and colors, and check pockets for forgotten personal belongings. Once they’re clean, the machine washable clothes are wrapped in brown paper and marked with the student’s laundry number. Dry cleaned clothes are covered in plastic marked with the number and hung on a moving carousel. On average, clean clothes are ready for pickup within 48 hours of drop off. There is no limit on the amount of wash or frequency per student.
”Approximately 12,000 pounds of clothes are cleaned per week during the school year. said Aaron Jackson, laundry manager. “The laundry also operates during the summer to provide clean linen for summer camps and programs, but the load drops to 2,000 pounds per week during that period.”
Goods in the 5,000 square foot laundry are washed by four Maytag 25-pound washers, one Unimac 100-pound washer, two Unimac 85 pound washers and two Unimac 125-pound washers. Drying is conducted by twenty, 25-pound Heubsch dryers , one, 100-pound Heubsch dryer and six, 20-pound Maytag dryers. The laundry has one Continental flatwork ironer, an Ajax single buck shirt press, an Ajax double buck shirt press, two Forenta pant presses and one Ajax pant press in their finishing department.
Roughly 1,100 of Davidson’s 1,600 students make use of the college laundry on a regular basis. The other 500 or so opt to do their own laundry using the free washers and dryers located in various residence halls around campus.
The system works efficiently in large part because of the college’s Honor Code. Students receive no receipt when they drop off laundry or pick up their wrapped bundles and dry cleaning. The only form of check-in and check-out is for college-issue bed linens, a system begun just this year to regulate the number of sheets taken and returned at one time.
The laundry staff of twelve maintain the same honorable standards. Lula Bell Houston, an 80-year-old veteran of the staff recalled a time when she returned a substantial amount of money from a pants pocket to an overjoyed student who wanted to reward her with half of it.
“They’re all professional in what they do because they’ve been doing it so long. Several women are second-generation employees of the laundry,” said Terry.
Davidson initiated its mandatory laundry service in the 1919-1920 academic year, “for hygienic and other reasons.” The initial cost was $2 per month. The service now operates on a fluctuating budget acquired from student fees. Terry estimated that the current cost per student is about $450 per year. Laundry funds not used in the budget year revert to the general college budget.
When the college first admitted women in 1972, a sub-committee on coeducation deemed the laundry service unequipped to satisfactorily launder women’s apparel. For that reason, the college installed household-type washers and dryers in several residence halls for women and men who wanted to do their own washing. The college has upgraded the laundry equipment and service since then to accommodate women’s apparel, and today most women have their clothes cleaned there.
“When I tell friends our school does laundry for us, they’re absolutely flabbergasted,” said senior, Alan Cubre. But the cultural and historical fabric of Davidson’s laundry service certainly won’t get hung out to dry any time soon.
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