Machines in the laundry room in Charles River Apartment 114 almost caught on fire on Nov. 4, Community Advisor Zosia Busé ’20 wrote in an email sent to residents of the building.

According to her email, University Police and on-call employees from Facilities Services determined that the incident was caused by an electrical issue with the dryers that resulted from someone unplugging the card reader. In an email to the Justice, Charles River Apartments Area Coordinator Joshua Adlerman said that University Police and Facilities Services staff arrived on scene on dispatch and saw smoke upon entering the laundry room, room 114 B-001. 

Alderman said the issue of students unplugging and plugging back in the laundry machines “causes problems with [laundry] machines everywhere,” not just in the Charles River Apartments.  

The immediate effect is that the machine will reset and give the user a free wash or dry cycle, Alderman said. However, it also makes the machine enter an error code. The machines then cannot be used again until they are serviced, which needs to be done by an external contractor, he explained. 

Fire safety becomes a primary concern when students unplug machines, because it creates an electrical issue — an “overload of sorts,” according to Alderman.

“Just two months ago there was a residence hall fire in Boston that resulted in 40 students being displaced from their housing because their rooms were damaged by the fire,” he explained. Alderman said that interfering with the laundry machines can harm student safety, which makes this problem a priority for the University to address.

According to Busé’s email, if students do not stop unplugging the card reader machine, consequences will be determined in accordance with the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, which  says that damaging University property is a punishable offense. 

Adlerman clarified that section 6.2 of the 2018-19 Rights and Responsibilities handbook instructs students to “Respect, maintain, and care for property belonging to others. Vandalism, littering, theft or attempted theft of, destruction of or damage to, and unauthorized possession or inappropriate use of property (including intellectual property) belonging to the University, a member of the University community, or any other individual or entity is unacceptable. This section also applies to the grounds, and to personal and public property that surrounds the campus.” Discussing potential disciplinary measures, Alderman said that such measures will be “very dependent on the impact of the actions taken, as well as prior history of the individual involved.”

Facilities Services and the Department of Community Living are working to prevent similar or worse situations from happening in the future by trying to stop student interference with laundry machines. Adlerman said that the two departments are looking to set up the laundry rooms in order to prevent the card reader machines from being unplugged. He added that Skyline’s laundry room is set up so that the card swipe machine cannot be unplugged.

“If you are having trouble affording laundry, please reach out to your respective CA or Area Coordinator … and we can help,” Busé wrote in her email. Alderman reiterated this by saying that DCL commits itself to supporting students who are unable to pay for laundry and experience financial hardship. These students and their Community Advisors can work on solutions together, he said.