BY MERYL PHAIR ’21
Since the start of the 2017 fall semester, Mount Holyoke students have been experiencing problems with the dorm laundry, including washers and dryers that shut off at random, bad card reads, money getting lost in transactions and one incident of a smoking washing machine in Prospect. But according to Doug Vanderpoel, director of Auxiliary Services, all these problems may be coming to an end sooner than it seems.
“I do believe the issue has been resolved,” he said.
Last summer, Auxiliary Services contracted with a new laundry vendor, Automatic Laundry Company, due to concerns about poor service and energy inefficiency with the old machines. Mount Holyoke’s Auxiliary Services website said that all new washers are Energy Star certified, meaning they meet strict energy performance standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These Speed Queen Quantum machines were installed in all the residence halls and have an updated card reader system.
But soon after the start of the school year, machines began shutting down across campus.
“I put my card in and it just kept saying ‘authorizing’ and then ‘bad swipe,’” said Anya Gerasimova ’21, who lives in Torrey Hall. “After a few other students tried [using the machines] we called Auxiliary Services but had to wait until Monday for them to fix it.” Other students have found themselves in similar situations where the card reader won’t accept their OneCard.
Students are also concerned with the increase in laundry costs. To wash or dry one load costs $1.75 each. For the past 10 years it has been at $1.50.
Maddie Miller ’20, the student who encountered the smoking washer on Oct. 25., had $2 left on her card after running the wash cycle. But when she tried to dry her clothes, she noticed a discrepancy.
“I inserted my card and it said insufficient funds although I knew there was no way I had spent the money,” said Miller. “The school claims that the price was raised because the new machines are much better but they took my money and started smoking so I’m not sure how valid this is.”
Students raised concerns about the issue to Auxiliary Services, and Doug Vanderpoel has confirmed that the issues are connected to problems in the central server instead of the individual machines.
“We found a problem with the firmware and have updated it,” he said.
Firmware is a software program that is etched into a hardware device. According to Techopedia, firmware is programmed to give permanent instructions to communicate with other devices as well as perform basic input and output functions. It can also be erased and rewritten.
Since Auxiliary Services updated their firmware program earlier this week they have not received any reports of malfunctioning machines or problems with the card readers.
The firmware issue took a while to identify because the incidents were infrequent and appeared random, Vanderpoel said. It was also a challenge because Auxiliary Services doesn’t receive notice that machines are down until three hours after the fact and they are not open on the weekends, a time when many students do laundry.
Despite a rocky start, Vanderpoel said the new system is working much better in comparison to the old. The machines are new and there is more local service technology accessible which means a quicker response for the convenience of students and Auxiliary Services.