DavidsonNews.net
10:53 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Open Since 1920 And Often Touted, Davidson College Laundry To Close Next Year

The laundry is named for longtime employee Lula Bell Houston.
The laundry is named for longtime employee Lula Bell Houston.
Credit Lincoln Davidson / DavidsonNews.net

The decision to discontinue the full-service laundry, which has been offered free to students since 1920, came in the face of declining usage by students and a need to reallocate budget funds for new programs, the college said.

Some students reacted quickly and negatively. Within 45 minutes of the announcement, more than 100 messages had been posted to Yik Yak, a smartphone app that allows users to post messages that can be seen by others in their geographic vicinity.

“Removing a 90-year old tradition that helps convince students to attend your institution is probably not a good idea. I would expect fewer applications and lower rankings. Way to go Davidson,” one message said.

While the majority of first-year students use the full laundry service, that usage rate drops over a student’s time at Davidson, with only about 35 percent of seniors using it.

At the same time, the college faces budget issues, and decided it was time to “realign resources.” In an email to students Wednesday afternoon, Davidson College president Carol Quillen highlighted planned and recently introduced programs that expand the college’s mission while creating new funding demands.

“This decision reflects a desire to sustain what is intrinsic and distinctive to Davidson, while offering new services and programs that prepare and enable Davidson graduates to thrive in a global society,” Quillen said.

“Just in the past year we introduced Africana Studies, an interdisciplinary department, and celebrated the grand opening of ‘Studio M,’ a makerspace that fosters technological creativity and exploration. Over the next year, we are expanding our career development offerings to meet growing student interest in career counseling and internship placement, and we plan to move to a 24/7 library for our students,” Quillen added.

The college will continue to offer free self-service laundry to students.

In 2011, the college laundry replaced brown paper wrappers with canvas bags.
In 2011, the college laundry replaced brown paper wrappers with canvas bags.
Credit Davidson College/ 2011 File Photo

  The college did not say how many people currently work at the laundry, but the college directory lists 14. But in her note, Quillen said: “We value the service of our laundry employees and are committed to helping them transition to new employment on and off campus over the next 12 months.”

The Lula Bell Houston Laundry, which was named in 2004 in honor of a college employee who retired that year after working at the laundry for 57 years, will keep its name despite a change in the building’s use. The college said it plans to work with the student body to explore how to best utilize the 6,800 square-food space after the laundry service is discontinued in 2015. Before the college’s decision last year to convert the Outpost late-night dining space to a campus branch of Summit Coffee, the laundry was discussed as a potential space for a campus pub and coffeehouse.

For more information, see the statement released on the college’s website, or read the message from president Carol Quillen to students below.

Dear Friends:

As Davidson College reimagines the liberal arts experience for our students, we are aligning our resources to meet our educational priorities. I write today to announce that Davidson College will discontinue free full-service laundry for all students as of May 15, 2015. Students will continue to have access to free self-service laundry facilities across campus.

We value the service of our laundry employees and are committed to helping them transition to new employment on and off campus over the next 12 months.

This decision reflects a desire to sustain what is intrinsic and distinctive to Davidson, while offering new services and programs that prepare and enable Davidson graduates to thrive in a global society.

Just in the past year we introduced Africana Studies, an interdisciplinary department, and celebrated the grand opening of “Studio M,” a makerspace that fosters technological creativity and exploration. Over the next year, we are expanding our career development offerings to meet growing student interest in career counseling and internship placement, and we plan to move to a 24/7 library for our students.

Davidson College has enjoyed a long history of careful stewardship of resources, which has allowed us to deliver an exceptional education to our students within the changing landscape of higher education.

For more information about the laundry, please read our Web story and FAQs here.

Sincerely,

Carol Quillen