O bed! O bed! Delicious bed!
That heaven upon earth to the weary head.
– Thomas Hood, (1799-1845)
A few months ago I saw a story on the national news about the competitive nature of recruiting students at bigger East Coast schools. More than ever, the story said, colleges are looking for any advantage they can get over other schools.
And one battleground chosen was the dorm room, with a specific focus on mattress quality.
Say a high school senior is choosing between two schools that are on pretty equal footing. Suddenly a Sealy Posturpedic holds a certain allure.
That made me wonder about the mattress situation at UAA. The university is growing but there are still struggles to retain the best Alaska students, who go out of state more than stay home.
Having lived in UAA Housing, I know that the mattresses are no Sealys.
But being 6’4” means anything less than a queen-size bed leaves me uncomfortable. That bias aside, I would still have rated UAA’s mattresses somewhere between prison issue and low-end store bought versions.
Wayne Morrison, associate director of Housing, Dining and Conference Services, is the man responsible for seeing that UAA students can rest easy at night.
Morrison said that when the dorms were finished in 1998 the university entered a contract with a furniture provider with a 10-year warranty. Unlike other universities that have a cycle set to keep mattress quality high, UAA purchased mattresses without a plan to replace them. Most schools try to use mattresses for 8 to 10 years.
Plus the mattresses UAA bought were at the low-end of the quality spectrum, Morrison said.
“It’s not what I would’ve done,” said Morrison, who started at UAA in 2001.
He said that there is a small amount in the budget each year for purchasing new mattresses and estimates that his staff probably replaces 12 mattresses during the fall move-in and 25 after the spring semester. But that isn’t enough as far as Morrison is concerned.
UAF recently replaced all of its dorm furniture, Morrison said. He would like nothing more than to replace every mattress at UAA.
He has already looked into purchasing new, higher-quality mattresses through a California distributor. But as always, the sticking point is cash. The worst part is the shipping cost, Morrison said, due to the mattresses’ size.
“There is never any money,” he said.
Some UAA students complain about the plastic covering on most mattresses. Morrison said that impermeable covers are necessary, but he is looking at alternatives to plastic. Apparently, Seawolf students have bladder problems or party a little too hard.
“Believe me, we do need impermeable,” he said.
Morrison would prefer to model UAA after schools that replace a percentage of mattresses after each year.
Steve Johnson, operations manager for university housing at Central Washington University, said the school, with 3,500 housing residents, replaces 300-400 mattresses a year and has begun purchasing bigger, higher-quality custom versions to phase out the previous generation. Morrison hopes UAA is on a similar plan by the time he leaves.
“That’s the kind of cycle you need to be in,” he said. “We’ll get there.”
That isn’t to say housing students with mattress woes have no current solution at UAA. If a mattress is in bad shape and the resident lets housing know, the bad bed will be replaced.
“No questions asked,” Morrison said.