At last, DSL agrees to provide basic amenity

With soap at Maseeh hall, DormCon can scrub major agenda item off its to-do list

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W20 is one of the closest locations Maseeh residents can go to use soap.
Karleigh Moore–The Tech

All undergraduate dorms will have soap in every bathroom starting next fall. This announcement came at a recent DormCon meeting after months of negotiations with the Division of Student Life (DSL).

Outgoing DormCon President Yonadav Shavit ’16 told The Tech that DormCon made soap a priority last December after Maseeh rejoined. MIT had not previously provided soap to Maseeh bathrooms, and residents had been barred from installing their own soap dispensers.

DormCon discussed the issue with Chancellor Barnhart PhD ’88, Dean Peter Cummings, and the Housing Strategy Group (HSG). They also consulted with Dr. Howard Heller, associate director of MIT Medical.

Heller emphasized the importance of soap in preventing infectious diseases and “helped convince [the HSG] of soap's necessity as a public good.”

Currently, many dorms, including East Campus, MacGregor, Senior House, McCormick, New House, and Next House, have soap provided by their house managers and maintained by the facilities staff.

The dorms that don’t have soap provided by facilities are Maseeh, Baker, Burton-Conner, Simmons, and Random. At Baker, bathrooms don’t often have soap, but sometimes GRTs will buy it for their floor’s bathroom. At Simmons, bathrooms are shared by at most three residents; residents clean their own bathrooms, and others are generally not encouraged to use them. At Random, the house government buys soap for the residents.

The soap issue is important to Maseeh residents, who have been fighting for soap to be placed in their bathrooms for a long time. Maseeh President William Moses ’17 said seven candidates mentioned soap in their platforms during the last election cycle; five of those candidates won positions in Maseeh government.

According to Moses, former Dean of Student Life Henry J. Humphreys told past Maseeh executive councils that the dorm’s bathrooms were considered private, and MIT’s policies state that soap cannot be provided in private bathrooms, despite that DSL’s own website says Maseeh has “shared bathrooms on all floors.”

Residents were not even allowed to pay for and maintain their own soap dispensers in the bathrooms. Several years ago, residents tried to install their own dispensers and the dispensers were removed.

The soap arriving in the fall will most likely be in liquid form.

“We can negotiate with DSL over the scent,” Shavit said as laughter bubbled up from DormCon meeting attendees.

The Division of Student Life had no further information to share with The Tech, stating that implementation details still need to be finalized and that they will be working with DormCon on this in the coming weeks.

Other types of amenities in dorm bathrooms, such as paper towels, have been contentious as well in recent years. Just last spring, Next House was considering installing paper towel dispensers in its bathrooms, but a student group called NextSustain argued against it for environmental reasons.

Ultimately, by executive decision from the then-house managers, dispensers were installed in every bathroom, despite the fact that students had “negotiated a compromise wherein paper towel dispensers would only be installed in the kitchenettes on the residential floors,” resident Zoe R. Sheinkopf ’17 told The Tech.

East Campus resident Max Baas-Thomas ’16 recalled that when he was a freshman, the then-seniors organized trips to gather paper towels from unlocked cleaning closets in various basements around campus.

East Campus resident Yanisa Techagumthorn ’18 mentioned that it is easier to get paper towels these days: “just go down to the basement and knock on the door [to the cleaning staff’s lounge] and ask for some.”

“I usually just take a stack of napkins from Maseeh dining. Also rolls of toilet paper too,” East Campus resident Ali Finkelstein ’16 wrote in an email, offering an alternative method.

Karleigh Moore contributed reporting.