Illustration by Rebecca Cho
Toilet paper is, perhaps, the one piece of equipment we all pray never fails us. Unfortunately, students and faculty at Utah Valley University face this crisis daily.
“It’s not comfortable, it’s awkward. Pulling it out, handling it, it’s all awkward,” said Shaylee Ray, a freshman commercial music major at UVU. She is not alone.
“I have to roll out half the roll to feel like I’m not touching myself,” said Rick Smith, a junior public relations major at UVU.
The vast majority shared Shaylee and Rick’s opinion. One student in particular is not bothered by the toilet paper. Sophomore philosophy major, Spencer Pincock, said, “It’s annoying at times, but it gets the job done. I wouldn’t say it’s insufficient.”
Decision makers recognize the complaint and consent to its regularity. “It comes up often,” said Sandra Koller, administrative support for the vice president of Finance and Administration. In the face of such a widely held opinion, students and faculty wonder when, and if, change will occur.
Curtis Hall is the manager of Custodial Services and a ten-year employee of the university. One of his many responsibilities include campus toilet paper. Hall’s staff consists of 80 full-time employees and 100 student employees. On each shift, a team of six student employees do nothing but check toilet paper throughout the day. The people on campus use so much toilet paper that, just to keep up, each stall on campus must be checked every two to three hours.
According to a Sept. 12, 2016 report, UVU has 34,977 enrolled students. How much toilet paper does it take to support everyone?
Toilet paper is purchased in cases of 36 rolls, and it takes 80 cases per month to keep up with demand. In August 2016, UVU purchased 2880 rolls of toilet paper. Curtis Hall said these numbers are consistent during fall and spring semesters.
During periods of full time enrollment, UVU spends $3,000 per month on toilet paper. That adds to $12,000 per semester. Between fall and spring semester, the university spends roughly $24,000 on toilet paper. This money comes from a combination of tuition and state funding and is handled under the operation and maintenance budget.
Two-ply toilet paper is also available in cases of 36 rolls. Hall explained he could get a 36 roll case of two-ply but the rolls would be shorter. Trading thicker paper for shorter rolls would require Hall to purchase more cases per month. This logic leads some to believe they would be spending more money and getting less product.
“The [monetary difference] between what we have and what we would prefer to use is in the neighborhood of $50-$70 thousand per year,” said Frank Young, Associate Vice President of Facilities.
Would having a thicker option cause students to use less toilet paper? Administrators say no. “People are used to taking the length that they take. I don’t think it would change that much,” said Young.
Students, however, disagree. “I would definitely use less if there was a two-ply option,” said Allison West, freshman exercise science major at UVU.
For students looking for better quality toilet paper, restrooms in the Sorensen Student Center are stocked with two-ply paper. Funding for higher quality paper comes from student fees.
Many wonder whether President Matthew Holland uses better toilet paper than anyone else. President Holland does have access to a single bathroom adjoining a conference room attached to his office.
“He doesn’t get the two-ply, special edition. He uses the same single-ply toilet paper as everyone else,” Hall said.
Curtis Hall said the company UVU purchases toilet paper from is discontinuing their one-ply option. This decision will force the university to adjust the toilet paper they currently use. The plan, Hall said, is to change, but the goal is to improve. Hall said he thinks an improved toilet paper option would make people happier. Changes are set to come sometime in January or February 2017.
Dan Villegas, a student at UVU, began a petition on change.org demanding the quality of UVU toilet paper be changed. The petition began eight months ago, and so far 71 people agree with Villegas.