Maid for Harvard?

Students should be wary of Dormaid’s divisive implications

After recent approval by Associate Dean of the College Thomas A. Dingman ’67, other members of the Dean’s office, and all 12 House Masters, a new student service is sweeping onto campus. Dormaid, founded by Michael E. Kopko ’07, is a cleaning service that allows students to avoid the perennial problem of dingy, smutty, questionably-habitable rooms. But as appealing as the thought of a perpetually tidy room may be, (independent of family visits), Dormaid could potentially mess up as many rooms as it cleans. By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity.

There are already plenty of services at Harvard that sharpen the differences between socioeconomic classes. Harvard Student Agency Cleaners, for example, lets some students pick up clean and neatly-folded clothes in crackling plastic bags. The less well-off among us, however, make semi-weekly journeys to the basement with bulging mesh laundry bags and quarters in hand. These differences extend to the social sphere as well—to final clubs composed predominately of wealthy young men, or to basic activities, like eating out, that some students cannot afford to enjoy. But while class differences are a fact of life—yes, there are both rich and poor people at Harvard—there is no reason to exacerbate these differences further with a room-cleaning service.

Dorm life is one of the few common experiences left that all students, regardless of class or background, have to endure with a measure of equality. The egalitarian nature of dorm life helps to foster a sense of collegiate camaraderie, an unadulterated respect for peers; it generates a level playing field that encourages learning between people of all upbringings. A service like Dormaid can bring many levels of awkwardness into this picture. For example, do two people sharing a double split the cost? What if one wants the service and the other does not? What if one cannot afford it? Hiring someone to clean dorm rooms is a convenience, but it is also an obvious display of wealth that would establish a perceived, if unspoken, barrier between students of different economic means.

Harvard administrators and House Masters should have known better than to approve Dormaid. While it provides a useful service, Dormaid’s cost to campus life outweighs its positive aspects. Harvard makes strong efforts to open this school to students of all backgrounds. These efforts must not end with a number in a financial aid packet. This openness must be imbued in the atmosphere of this school, which means that unneeded distinctions between the rich and the poor are the last things that Harvard needs to foster. Although Harvard has given its approval, students don’t have to. We urge the student body to boycott Dormaid. Everyone’s certainly busy, but Harvard students shouldn’t choose convenience over healthy relationships with their blockmates. It’s up to each one of us to ensure that our peers feel comfortable on campus, and if that means plugging in a vacuum every two weeks, then so be it.