Lights, cameras, action… to stop laundry room vandalism

Vandalism at the end of the fall semester in Alumni Hall and Lyons Hall meant residents were locked out of their laundry rooms, forcing them to go elsewhere to wash and dry their clothes.

Residents of Alumni and Lyons swarmed Quad Commons throughout the first two weeks of the spring semester to ensure they would be able to do their laundry.

The laundry rooms were shut down while Mac-Gray, a company which services the 13 laundry rooms across campus, was busy repairing machines and installing surveillance cameras.

The 16 reported vandalism cases caused over $10,000 in damage, while the cameras installed into each of the 13 laundry rooms across campus totaled approximately $30,000, according to Rob Robinson, director of financial planning and business services.   

“The idea is now that everyone knows and we are not hiding it,” said Doug Babcock, director of public safety. “If we catch you, we could prosecute you, whether it’s on campus or whether we have to take it to the police. We will stop this from happening.”                

The school had 16 reported cases of vandalized laundry rooms during the fall semester – a drastic increase from three the school had during the 2015-2016 school year.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Jade Jarvis, ’19, a Quad Commons resident, of the overcrowded Quad Commons laundry room. “I understand that they have to close their laundry rooms, but it makes it very unfair for people in Quad when we can’t even use our laundry room even though we didn’t vandalize.”

Desperate to save $1.50 for a load of laundry, students found ways to combat their spendings, by unplugging the Knight Card swipe boxes, which enables the washers and dryers to run free of payment. However, the unplugging of the boxes also disables the electric wires, leaving them free and exposed.

“They are a fire hazard and an electrocution hazard,” Babcock said. “It is a theft, and it costs money to repair because the repair technician has to replace the box and the wire.”

“I think it is a little absurd the measures people were going to try to get the free laundry, but I don’t blame them for wanting free laundry,” said Aaron Deeter, ’19, a resident of Alumni.

Since the Alumni and Lyons laundry rooms were locked before departing for winter break, residents expected the rooms to be opened when they returned in mid-January. However, they were left disappointed as it was locked down until the start of the third week of the semester. Residents thought it was a way for the school to reprimand the vandalism. In reality, it was a scheduling issue with Mac-Gray.

“Countless hours have been spent not only repairing damaged equipment, but fortifying outlets, wiring, and other equipment in an attempt to make them more difficult to tamper with,” Robinson said.

Students believe that if laundry was free, there would have been no incidents of vandalism.

“If they’re so worried about a fire hazard I think they should just make it free, so nobody is tampering with anything,” Deeter said.

“I think it should already be in our tuition because we pay a lot to go here,” Jarvis said. “Either do it for free or do what UVM does – you have to swipe, but it’s only for a penny. For us to pay $3 every week that’s equivalent to 300 swipes at UVM.”

According to Babcock, there has already been some consideration done by St. Mike’s to put the price of laundry into student tuition. However, it may be up to students if that happens.

“That would best come from the student association out to the college to say: ‘Yes, we want you – the college – to increase fees so that our wash is prepaid,’” Babcock said.

“No one has come forward with the proposition, and in times of increasing tuition costs and housing costs. It wasn’t a decision to throw on more stuff, unless there was a real call for it,” he said.