Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: Response to the editorial board on Free Laundry Campaign

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author(s).

Bea Brown is a  senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a board member of Boston University’s Young Democratic Socialists of America.

The Daily Free Press editorial board’s recent conjecture that a student-led campaign for free laundry dismisses Boston University’s financial standing is harmful and ignorant. The goal of the BU Young Democratic Socialist’s Free Laundry for All campaign is twofold:

First, to secure a reduced financial burden for members of the BU student population. Second, to spread an understanding among the BU community that we see each other as peers and allies against any injustice that may fall onto one of our community members.

To accomplish our first goal of reducing unnecessary financial burdens, our efforts are best understood through an honest view of the University’s financial situation. The DFP editorial board writes that “the University may have to increase tuition to cover the costs of free laundry.” Speculation that BU will “have to” raise tuition, which is currently set at $56,854, is dishonest. 

President Robert Brown made nearly $1.7 million in 2016 and $2.5 million in 2015. The school bragged to us about having fundraised $1.85 billion over the past seven years and claimed some of this money would be put toward facilities. A $2.3 billion endowment certainly gives the University access to an accountant who can rectify these numbers without having to force students to pay to wash their clothes and bedding during a pandemic, or increasing the price of tuition. 

The editorial board offers a different solution. They write that “A part-time job can cover $10 worth of laundry a month if necessary.” Under normal circumstances, it would be cynical to suggest full-time university students should have to work to cover basic necessities the University refuses to provide. But, the argument is even more inappropriate during a time when a part-time job could expose students to a virus that only compounds their need to do laundry regularly. 

Free laundry is a feature of several universities operating on a smaller budget than our own, and in some cases, it resulted from student-led efforts. YDSA’s Free Laundry for All campaign is a request to an enormously rich institution to offer a basic service that similar institutions have provided. While it is characterized by the DFP editorial board as “wishfully hoping” the University will decide to forgo laundry revenue, the campaign is, in fact, an organized effort to bring demands to the University with the crucial support of the student body.

The second goal of the campaign, demonstrating students’ collective power, suffers when an independent, student-run newspaper spouts ideas that are indistinguishable from University talking points. 

The editorial board bemoans the fact that free laundry would mean the expense of implementing

the Greenwald Pay system — recently adopted by the University to facilitate collection of students’ laundry money amid a coin shortage — would have been for naught. 

This is not a reason to concede a fight to alleviate an expense for students. Unnecessary items in the BU budget such as GPay are further evidence that students need more say over how the University spends our money. We can best achieve this by organizing ourselves. The editorial board sympathizing with the University’s finances rather than the financial struggles of fellow students undermines those organizing efforts.

The editorial board suggests that laundry revenue may be vital to the University in order to finance the COVID-19 testing program. For the University, this testing program was a calculated expense undertaken for its own benefit. It enabled BU to bring students back to campus and, therefore, collect room and board payments as well as dodge a reduced tuition debate they may have faced as a fully online university. Framing the testing program as a burden to the University — and arguing its cost must be met by charging students for laundry — is unreasonable. 

These would be poor arguments if made by the University, but they sound even worse coming from the mouths of fellow students. At the time of writing, 793 students have responded to a survey on laundry expenses and signed up for the Free Laundry for All mailing list. No demands have yet been brought to the administration. 

The DFP editorial board’s decision to take up the mantle of the institution before the fight had even begun sends a terrible message to the student body about what our role in the system should be and what the potential power of journalism could be. 

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  1. The movement for Free Laundry for ALL is growing fast and we want you to be a part of it. Sign up with this link here: https://rb.gy/j7qivy and join with 807 of your peers who already have