Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review

The freshly bleached, crisp white towels sit stacked on the counter, nearly sparkling under the overhead light. Clean and ready to be used by gym patrons to dry their sweaty faces or necks, these towels are one hot commodity. But lately these towels are becoming less about wiping off sweat and more about wiping out student dollars. In a single day, anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 students walk into the Wade King Recreational Center. In a single week, an average of 50 towels goes missing.

Adam Leonard, associate director for campus recreation, said in an e-mail that the Rec Center spends about $8,000 to $10,000 on towels annually. That money comes from a combination of the recreation center fee and revenue generated from services in the building such as locker rentals, memberships and facility rentals. While the amount spent to replace missing towels is a small portion of the Rec Center’s total budget, it still costs a substantial amount of money to keep the towels fully stocked.

Leonard believes that when students leave the gym in a hurry, they may or may not realize that they still have their towel with them.

A front-loading washing machine containing 75-100 towels in the Wade King Recreational Center. Nearly half the amount in this load goes missing in an average week. Photo by Joe Rudko/The AS Review.

“We believe that some patrons place towels in their bag either accidentally or deliberately, and leave the building with them,” he said. “We are alerting our staff to be more cognizant of the issue and try to notice if patrons are leaving with the towels.”

Associated Students Vice President for Student Life Jamin Agosti, who sits on the Recreation Center Advisory Committee, said this issue has been brought up a few times in the past.

Given that the $95 quarterly student fee that goes toward funding the Rec Center is one of the highest student fees that the university charges, Agosti said it is important to examine and review the services the fee funds, as well as consider where potential savings could be made without hindering those services.

He said that dealing with the towel issue is in its preliminary stages right now, but he has been looking into several different options and taking advice and ideas from other colleges.

Several suggestions have been tossed around, such as having a towel check-out system or having students pay a towel deposit at the beginning of the year.

“We’re really trying to find a way that isn’t going to create lines, isn’t going to bog down students and isn’t going to make the Rec Center any less fun or useful,” Agosti said. “But it’s also going to save us.”

Agosti said if this issue can be solved, there could potentially be additional services provided to students if the money allocated to replace missing towels wasn’t being spent.

“It’s a great service. You can come into the Rec with nothing but your Western card, either swim, work out, shower afterwards and dry off. And that is a service that we still want to provide,” he said.

AS President Colin Watrin said he was surprised at the statistics on lost and stolen towels when he first heard of the issue during a presentation on student fees.

“It seems kind of absurd to me that we can’t find a better system to track these,” he said. “The fact that we’re spending [money] on towels that have been stolen from the Rec Center, that’s [money] that can’t go to other services for students, which is ridiculous.”

Agosti said what it all comes down to is knowledge and enforcement. Students need to be aware that innocently forgetting a towel in their bag as they walk out of the gym is costing the university money. ■