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Residence Hall Laundry Room Creates Conflict of Interest

[Editor’s note: This article was written before students left for Spring Break. As far as we know, the issue has not yet been resolved.]

Off of the Doble Quad sits White Hall, a residence hall popular among first-year students and upperclassmen alike. The building is centrally located with proximity to nearby classrooms and on-campus dining options. The traditional-style dorms make socializing and meeting new friends a breeze. White Hall also comes equipped with amenities like kitchen and laundry facilities.

The ability to wash clothes without ever leaving White Hall is a valuable perk of living there. There is no lugging of clothes to the nearest on-campus laundry room or laundromat required. However, students looking to use the laundry facilities in White Hall will quickly realize that they may have felt more comfortable going elsewhere.

The student laundry area in White Hall doubles as a changing room for dining hall staff.

For students, there is understandable apprehension around using this space. Students are inadvertently invading someone else’s privacy just by trying to wash their clothes.

Gina Foley, a student who lived in White Hall last year, commented, “When I lived on campus freshman year, I lived in White Hall. I did my laundry on campus a handful of times, maybe two or three in total. After that, I decided to just go home every weekend to do my laundry, as the place to do my laundry [at Lesley was] also the same place for the kitchen staff to get ready. It was incredibly uncomfortable for both myself and the staff to be sharing this space, and out of respect for them I made the decision to drop doing my laundry there. They deserve a safe, private space to get ready in peace as do Lesley students to do their laundry. This situation needs to change.”

The whole point of having a laundry facility located within a residence hall is to make students’ lives easier. The decision to combine the staff changing area with this space has actually complicated the student experience, making them feel incredibly uneasy and hesitant to utilize the laundry room. If even a handful of students are uncomfortable enough that they feel they must leave White Hall to wash their clothes, this facility is no longer serving its purpose.

Ali Trepanier, a sophomore living in White Hall, echoed Foley’s sentiments: “Trying to switch my laundry while workers are changing…is just wrong. Neither party should have to interact with each other in that capacity.”

This space puts employees in a very vulnerable position, as they are forced to change right next to students doing laundry. With both parties together in this capacity, there is increased potential for misconduct. It’s surprising that, on a campus that recently saw the formation of a Sexual Assault Prevention Advisory Committee, this space is allowed to continue to exist without closer examination. It’s a glaring violation of safety, completely against the best interests of students and kitchen staff.

Having our dining hall workers change in this space communicates the level of respect that we have for them as an on-campus community. Are the workers who staff our dining halls and feed us daily not worthy of having their own space? Reporting to work each day is difficult enough. The kitchen staff shouldn’t have to begin or end their day by changing in front of Lesley students.

The reasoning behind the shared space is unclear. I reached out to Nancy Galvin, Associate Dean of Residence Life, to see if her department was involved in this decision. Nancy informed me that “Residence Life did not make the decision about that space,” adding that she “[did] not know the history” on the space.

Nancy said she would reach out to Dean Mays, Dean of Students, to see if he could provide me with more information. At press time, I hadn’t heard back from Dean Mays regarding this issue.

After learning that Residence Life did not implement the shared laundry room system, I reached out to Ed Fogarty, Director of Dining Services. Since the workers are kitchen staff members, I wondered if it was a decision made by Dining Services. However, Ed let me know that Bon Appetit is “allocated space from Lesley, as [they] are [a] contracted food service.”

Ed directed me to Michele Trifiro, Director of Campus Safety and Services. He advised me to “reach out to her for any plans on the space.” I followed up with Michele, wondering if she could speak to who at Lesley offered this space to Bon Appetit. At press time, Michele Trifiro could not be reached for a comment.

Kayrin Brower, a sophomore White Hall resident, called the space “unethical,” adding that “everyone should have their own space, especially in regard to getting ready for the workday.”

I’m inclined to agree with her. While it’s unclear exactly who made the decision to combine a student laundry room with a staff changing room at Lesley, what matters more is that the decision was made by administration in the first place.

It’s a decision that makes students feel uneasy and ignores workers’ rights to privacy. It’s a decision that puts both populations in a potentially dangerous, decidedly awkward situation.

If we permit the continued usage of this space, we send the message that the needs and rights of a portion of our Lesley community are unimportant. It’s a message that will reflect poorly on all of us.

Lesley University must work to change the narrative, by eliminating this space and standing by its students and dining hall staff.

 

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