Feces found in Harkness washer

Friday, February 27, 2009

Claudia Davidson ’11, a resident of Harkness House, found an unwanted surprise in her laundry earlier this month. As she wrote in an e-mail that night to all residents of Harkness, she had “found human feces” on her sheets after using a basement washing machine.

Grotesque as her misfortune was, the presence of feces in Harkness washers was not an isolated incident. Just a week before, on Jan. 29, fecal matter was found in a different washer and dryer in Harkness’s basement laundry room, according to Harkness Community Assistant Wudan Yan ’11.

Following the Jan. 29 incident, Yan sent an e-mail to all Harkness House residents with the reminder: “Washers and dryers cannot miraculously make those human byproducts disappear!”

Davidson said she believes there were vestiges of feces in one of the washers at the beginning of the school year. But Yan said it was not clear whether Davidson’s discovery was the result of a new incident or a problem of old fecal matter circulating through the piping system.

Richard Hilton, assistant director for operations for Residential Life, confirmed that the contaminated units were cleaned. Regarding the problem, he said, “I think that people need to be considerate of everyone in the Brown community.”

Since Feb. 6, when Davidson found her sheets soiled, there have been no new laundry room issues, Yan said, adding that some Harkness residents originally believed it was another house playing a prank on them, even though no evidence has been found.

“They didn’t tell us how to handle this in training,” Yan said.

Some residents are still skeptical that the feces problem has been solved, Davidson said.

Davidson, who hasn’t done her laundry in Harkness since the incident earlier this month, had another theory. “I think what’s happening is someone is pooping in their pants and someone is washing their underwear in the machines and the poop is ending up in there,” she said.

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