Story by Austin Cannon
Photo by Luke Nankivell
While not as extreme as sandpaper, Drake University’s thin, single-ply toilet paper has received its fair share of complaints across campus.
Ekta Haria, Drake Student Senate’s student services committee chair, received many complaints early in the fall semester on the Student Services Facebook page.
“The first week, there were so many complaints about it,” Haria said.
Haria talked to the manager of Facility Services and was told thicker toilet paper would lead to Drake’s toilets clogging more frequently and it would be too costly to upgrade the entire sewage system.
Toilet paper issues have often surfaced during Haria’s time on Senate, but they have since died down.
“It’s sort of been a big issue because it had been brought up a lot even in my last year when I was on Senate and even this year. It’s just that now that students were able to get that answer, they really can’t do anything,” Haria said.
First-year information systems major Coleby Hanisch, however, still feels sour towards the bathroom tissue.
“I think that it’s dumb that Drake uses one-ply toilet paper because when I am cleaning up my business I have to use like 30 sheets of one-ply and I feel like I’d only have to use 10, maybe 15, of 2-ply,” Hanisch said. “We want comfort while doing our business. This provides scratchiness, like sandpaper.”
Hanisch, 18, describes Drake students’ attitude towards the toilet paper as “absolute scorn.” He also stated he would fully support a change to an upgraded product.
“I think that they should invest in it very thoroughly,” Hanisch said.
Drake is not the only Midwestern university that employs single-ply toilet paper. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) does too.
Alex Kidwell, a first-year marketing major has issues with UNL’s toilet paper.
“It’s a real struggle to go to the restroom with the worry of the toilet paper ripping. None of us want that,” Kidwell, 19, said via email. “The toilet paper is one-ply. Wiping with printer paper may be more effective and comforting.”
While he doesn’t believe it’s a major campus issue, Kidwell’s fellow UNL students enjoy returning home for their bathroom comfort.
“It is not a big deal, but I know a lot of people enjoy going home to use their own, high-quality toilet paper,” Kidwell said.
Drake uses single-ply Georgia Pacific coreless toilet paper, designed to limit waste and clogging of the sewage system. During an average week, Drake students, faculty, employees and visitors, campus-wide, go through close to 1,300 rolls.
Assistant Director of Custodial and Grounds John Selin explains that the environmental aspects, including less waste, of the toilet paper were also taken into account.
“It was decided upon that, you know, we wanted to be a green university as much as possible,” Selin said.
The current toilet paper is also more efficient. With each roll equaling around 1,000 sheets, custodial staff doesn’t have to replace them as often. Each dispenser holds enough tissue to last an entire weekend, when almost all custodians are off-duty. The rolls are also coreless, allowing for extra paper.
Nancy Macedo, custodial manager, stated that the biggest problem is when students don’t use the paper for its intended purposes.
“We can go through over 1,200 rolls of tissue, where it hurts us is when we’re playing the pranks,” Macedo said.
Macedo was referring to a couple weeks previous, when two and a half cases, 82 rolls, of toilet paper were used to cover trees in the yards of fraternity and sorority houses on 34th Street.
Over the last year, Facility Services, which falls under the Sodexo umbrella, has investigated a possible change to two-ply bathroom tissue.
Because contracts with Sodexo fall under her purview, Vice President of Business and Finance Deborah Newsom would make the final decision.
“We’re still pursing what we’re going to do with that. There hasn’t been a final decision made,” Selin said.
Contrary to what Haria was told, Selin and Maecado said that only the few buildings with older sewage systems, like Ross Hall, might struggle with more substantial toilet paper. They have yet to encounter any issues with students using their own thicker toilet paper in campus toilets.
The two main concerns facing a switch to two-ply are the environmental impact and cost.
“In order to be sustainable, you have to have a certain amount of postconsumer fiber in the toilet paper,” Selin said.
Postconsumer fiber, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is a paper product that has been used and discarded by the consumer. Selin wasn’t sure if two-ply toilet paper would meet the same environmental requirements as the single-ply.
For the 2011-2012 academic year, the university spent $37,216.18 on toilet paper costs. Selin speculated that an upgrade to two-ply could result in a $10-15,000 spike in cost.
“I think there is a possibility that it could get changed. I think it’s just a matter of everybody okaying that there would be a possible cost difference,” Selin said.