Student laundry left high and (not) dry

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

Two weeks ago, students across campus were left stranded with piles of sopping wet laundry and no way to dry them. The dryers in several residential houses went offline with no warning—on a weekend, no less. Saturday, Feb. 4, the dryers in Lathrop and Jewett stopped functioning. The next day, they were still down. This is an account of that dark weekend.

Saturdays and Sundays are prime time to do laundry at Vassar. It’s survival of the fittest to see who will be the first to claim a machine. You better be on time to switch your laundry, lest the next person waiting with a bag of dirty clothes strapped to their back takes the liberty of tossing your load out of the washer for you. This is no game—it is not for the weak of will, and there is absolutely no room for error. 

This delicate system all came crashing down last weekend. As the laundry room began to fill up on Saturday morning with students dreaming of clean sheets and fresh clothes, all seemed well. 40 minutes later, though, the wind began to shift. Jewett resident Magda Sharff ’26 describes the crushing realization, saying: “I went to move my laundry from the washer to the dryer and that’s when I noticed that the little panels on all the dryers were completely dark, like little dead eyes, staring at me, mocking me.” 

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

Mocking indeed. The hope of delightfully clean clothes was crushed immediately by the realization that there would be no warm and dry T-shirts. Instead, this hope was replaced by terrifying images of mildew-ridden clothes, left to sit wet in their bag for hours, maybe even days. Sharff knew they had to act, and fast, so she marched off to Lathrop in search of a working dryer. Was she free at last from this ill-fated laundry excursion? Certainly Lathrop was not their first choice, but at least they would be going home with dry clothes, right?

Oh, dear reader, you could not be more wrong. Sharff told me about the emotional turmoil this event brought, saying, “I begrudgingly packed up all my wet clothes and trudged over to Lath, wandering blindly through the basement until I stumbled upon their grimy little laundry room, only to find that their dryers were offline too. At this point I was basically on the verge of tears.” She eventually found solace in the Strong House laundry room, but the excursion left a stain on what could’ve been an otherwise peaceful weekend. 

Lathrop residents were not faring any better with their own laundry woes. One of these residents, Patrick Horiszny ’26, walked me through his decision to skip laundry altogether last weekend. He explained, “They told us, if you want to do your laundry, just go to a nearby house. I’m thinking fuck no—I’m not walking my laundry, my fucking laundry basket, across the quad to another dorm. That would look so stupid. And there would probably be a gust of wind that would blow stuff out. That’s like my nightmare.” 

Nina Ajemian/The Miscellany News.

Nightmare is putting it kindly. Two weekends ago, as some of you may recall, campus was devastatingly windy. I ask you, readers, who among us would want to risk our unmentionables being tossed out of a hamper, forcing us to abandon the rest of our clothes to chase after a rogue pair of skivvies? Certainly not me. Still, the decision to leave the laundry unwashed was not an easy one for Horiszny to make. In his words, “I usually like to do all my laundry on the weekends, because it’s just objectively the best time to do it.” With weekdays full of classes, org meetings, work and other obligations, the weekend does provide a perfect opportunity to freshen things up—an opportunity that was ripped from Horiszny’s grasp, along with countless other students. 

Perhaps one of the most unsettling effects of this event was the uncertainty surrounding everything. When did the dryers break? Why did they break? Was this an act of malice? Perhaps an act of protest against the amount of energy dryers use? And when would they be working again? Students had so many questions, and there were so few answers. This confusion was relayed to me by another Jewett resident, Isabelle Borgstedt ’26, who commented: “When I went to switch my laundry over to the dryer last weekend, I realized that the Jewett dryers weren’t working, and my friend who lives on my floor confirmed that they had been offline since the day before. I found this pretty frustrating, since I had two loads of wet laundry and this issue came up without any warning.” Borgstedt had unknowingly set herself up for a walk to Davison House, lugging her soaking clothes behind her. Horiszny concurred that the uncertainty was what caused him the most discomfort, saying: “Really, the most irritating part was I got an email saying the dryers were fucked, go elsewhere, but we never got an email saying they fixed them. It was just like one day I went down there, and everyone was using the dryer again. I would’ve liked to know.” 

Sharff, Horiszny and Borgstedt represent but a small number of students who were caught blindsided by these technical difficulties and who ultimately were faced with the seemingly impossible decision: To wash or not to wash? One can only hope that this was a one-off occurrence for Vassar and that I won’t be coming back to you to report a serial-dryer destroyer. Whatever happens next, stay safe, stay aware, and above all, stay dry. 

Doug Cobb/The Miscellany News.

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