Coddling? Or Consequences of the Modern Workload?

University of St. Thomas introduces controversial laundry service

flickr user invernodreaming

Flickr | invernodreaming

The University of St. Thomas (UST) has recently partnered with the dry-cleaning service Laundry Doctor, which allows students to shuck their laundry responsibilities for $1 per pound of dirty clothes. Students can deposit their laundry in designated lockers to be swept up and dry-cleaned by Laundry Doctor employees, and then returned to the same locker within a two-day period.

Although St. Thomas’s student-run news service, TommieMedia, reported that concerned parents encouraged this unlikely partnership, this resource has been subject to scrutiny.

Some supporters say that it helps students to feel less stressed. Others say it helps students who don’t know how to do laundry. Bonnie Hanson, St. Thomas’s vice president of marketing and client relations, took a more academic approach and told TommieMedia, “It frees them up to reap the benefits of their education.”

Some supporters say that it helps students to feel less stressed. Others say that it helps students who don’t know how to do laundry.

Still, university students and parents have targeted St. Thomas, claiming that the service enables the infantilization of students, abetting their resistance to learning life skills.

“I get that [UST] can’t control the fact that there are students that were raised without knowing how to do laundry,” stated one alumnus in an MPR blog, “but they certainly don’t need to enable this behavior.”

According to parents of students at St. Thomas, this service isn’t about coddling. It is a necessity for students with unwieldy workloads, who lack the time and energy to do their laundry themselves.

It is no secret that university workloads are at a peak. STEM students in particular suffer from crippling workloads, with engineering students receiving an average of 18.5 hours of work per week outside of classes and labs, according to a New York Times blog. With such a time-consuming school life, students are forced to postpone their acquisition of life skills, whether it be laundry or time management.

Speaking out in defense of St. Thomas students, University of Minnesota student Dina Carpenter-Graffy commented on her rigorous course load as an astrophysics major and how the STEM curriculum may be forcing students to seek out services such as Laundry Doctor.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do my laundry. It’s that I don’t have room in my brain or time in my schedule.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to do my laundry,” Carpenter-Graffy said. “It’s that I don’t have room in my brain or time in my schedule to think about doing my laundry on a daily basis. I leave it until I can’t anymore.”

Clearly, the arguments for and against St. Thomas’s laundry service are both reputable and flawed. Laundry Doctor’s service undoubtedly coddles students, allowing them to forestall learning valuable life skills, but in consideration of students’ unprecedented workloads, such a service may be in demand.

St. Thomas’s partnership with Laundry Doctor is concerning as it exemplifies the growing trend of babying students to their own detriment. But instead of labeling St. Thomas’s students as lazy, we should be investigating the roots of this unsettling trend. As the pace of university education quickens, students are pushed beyond their limits academically, and as a consequence their life skills are suffering.