Science - January 22, 2004

ISP objects to compulsory cleaning charges in flats

Students in international flats pay SSHW too much in service charges. The cleaning costs are very high, according to Oscar Yawson, member of the International Student Panel (ISP) who lives on an international corridor in Hoevestein. According to Jan Harkema, vice director of SSHW, the international corridors where the students cleaned themselves were dirtier than those where Dutch students live, and that is why the SSHW has made a cleaning charge compulsory.

At present each inhabitant pays about forty euros a month for cleaning the shared areas. “I wouldn’t mind paying that amount if the cleaning job was done properly,” says Yawson. He reckons that cleaners spend no more than half to three-quarters of an hour cleaning. “Sometimes after they have cleaned the toilet there is still rubbish on the floor and the toilet has stains on it,” he adds.

According to Yawson many students would prefer to clean themselves if they were allowed to. The work that the professional cleaners do could easily be done by the students. “Often we end up doing extra cleaning anyway because things aren’t clean, so why not let us do all the cleaning ourselves and pay less?” He finds it strange that Dutch students are allowed to do their own cleaning and therefore have lower service charges.

In addition to cleaning costs, the international occupants also pay SSHW about forty euros a month for the furnishings in their room and in the shared areas. Yawson finds these costs steep as well. “People are careful with the furnishings because they know they have to leave them behind in the state they were when they arrived.” He also thinks that the inventory contains things which are not necessary and others which are not sufficient. “For example, the light bulb in my room,” cites Yawson. “It’s not strong enough for reading, but when it blows I have still have to replace it with the same strength light bulb.”

Yawson thinks that students on the international corridors should be able to choose whether they do the cleaning themselves and whether they furnish their rooms themselves. “I would be happy to sleep on a second-hand mattress if it were cheaper.”

Checks

SSHW vice-director Jan Harkema admits that the cleaning issue is a cause of concern. “We are looking into the matter at the moment,” he says. SSHW has recently started an experiment in some international corridors, where the students are doing the cleaning themselves. The manager comes at appointed times to check whether everything is clean.

Harkema understands the criticism from the international students about the service charges. “But it is not without reason that SSHW offers cleaning and furnishings,” he continues. “In the past we received complaints from university departments that their international students arrived to find empty rooms.” In response to this the SSHW started compiling a standard inventory for international corridors. “We even went to Ikea to ask them about supplying a standard inventory, but in the end what we put together ourselves was cheaper.”

The SSHW has made professional cleaning services compulsory in the international corridors because of negative experiences in the past. “It used to be that the international corridors were dirtier than the Dutch corridors,” he comments. “This happened because most international corridors had no representative who organised the cleaning. In addition, views on what is clean and dirty do vary depending from where in the world you come from. This was why we were not so keen for the international corridors to do their own cleaning,” explains the SSHW vice-director.

SSHW does not intend to start letting international students obtain their own furniture and other household equipment. International students are assigned a room on arrival and don’t have to join the waiting list, and according to Harkema it would be impossible to expect them to also immediately arrange their own furnishings.

Teun Hofmeijer

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