Rats found in first-year dorms

According to Facilities Management, there have been seven total sightings of rodents in the dorms. Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista

First-years are not the only new residents of Camino and Founders Halls.

Camino and Founders Hall are some of the oldest buildings on campus, and while their age gives them character and history, some aspects of these first-year dorms aren’t so pleasing. Old furniture and creaky doors are sometimes unpleasant, but the recent sightings of rats around the dorms have brought more than a few groans of irritation.

According to Facilities Management, there have been multiple sightings of rodents in Camino and Founders within the past couple of weeks. However, the first rat sighting was long before classes even started, as stated by Founders RA Jayden Yeoman. 

“We first encountered the rat problem during our RA Training before Olé Weekend,” Yeoman said. We saw a rat in Camino Lounge, and we called facilities and asked them to handle the situation.”

Bob Brauer, Director of Building and Grounds Operation, has received reports of sightings from Founders residents since move-in day. The first rodent report in Founders this year was on Aug. 28.

According to Brauer, six rooms have reported rodents in Founders during the fall semester. Camino had one actual sighting. “There’s also a terrible smell that we have to chase down, that could be a dead rodent,” Brauer said. 

Brauer believes that the recent construction of Paseo de Colachis has created a lot of rodent activity. “There’s mice everywhere in the world, but with Colachis work, a lot of their habitat got affected and they probably got displaced in areas,” Brauer said. 

For some first-years including Sabrina Smith, the sightings caused more than just slight discomfort. Along with other Camino and Founders residents, Smith discovered a new roommate in her dorm room. And unlike her current roommate, this one was small, furry, and unwelcome. 

“I was sitting doing homework, minding my own business, I heard something in the corner of the room,” Smith said. “I got up to look, and something bolted off of my food shelf. I picked up the bag and it was completely chewed through.”

Smith immediately told a Founders RA about the situation, who then contacted Facilities Management. She and her roommate were advised to not sleep in their room that night, and they had to resort to either sleeping on the floor of their friend’s room or in an empty bed in an open triple in their building. 

Alysse Hogan, Community Director for Camino and Founders, is actively trying to work out where students can stay if they have rodents in their rooms. “For residents who feel like they want to stay in another place, I will work that out with them to figure out those options,” Hogan said. 

Smith, along with her roommate, ultimately ended up sleeping on the floor of her friend’s room, because she stated it would be more uncomfortable to go to a room where she didn’t know anyone.

“[Sleeping on the floor] is also a little inconvenient when you have an athlete, which is my roommate, who has to get up at five in the morning every day,” Smith said. “And myself, I had a surgery two months ago, and I’m still recovering from that, so it wasn’t too comfortable to be sleeping on the ground.”

While the rodent problem certainly forced some residents into an uncomfortable and inconvenient position, others attempted to bring a laugh to the situation. One room placed a whiteboard outside their room, asking, “Should we get a hall cat to solve the rat issue?”

Nearly all residents of the floor placed a tally mark under ‘yes.’ Other first-years in Camino and Founders have simply tried to brush off the situation.

Yeoman’s immediate reaction was surprise when she spotted a rat, but she doesn’t necessarily think that rodents at USD are entirely unexpected. “We live right next to the Tecolote Canyon so I think seeing a rat is somewhat expected with the close proximity,” Yeoman said.

Hogan sent out a mass email to the dorm’s residents on Sept. 18, containing information on what USD is doing to solve the problem, what residents can do to be proactive, and what they should do if they see a rodent. Hogan had a meeting with Facilities Management on Sept. 26, to discuss future actions concerning the situation. 

“We’re going to lay down some actions,” Hogan said. “We’re setting up traps in all of the rooms in Founders, someone in facilities up through the 29 will be checking all of the rooms and the traps.” 

Hogan sent out an email Sept. 26 informing all Founders residents that Facilities would be entering their room to place traps and checking them every day. 

“Door sweeps have been ordered to go under the exterior doors to close the gaps underneath the doors,” Hogan said. “If there are holes in any of the rooms, we are asking that residents submit a work order to get those patched up, so there is no enter point into the rooms.”

There have been multiple rodent sightings in Camino and Founders since move-in day. Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista

The Facilities Management has been working to solve the issue as quickly as possible. “We’ve put out glue traps at any sighting of rodents,” Brauer said. “We’ve put out bait traps, and Terminex is out two or three times weekly monitoring those traps. Additionally, our in-house crew is monitoring and working traps.”

Smith’s experience with university services and Facilities all occurred before the mass email was sent out, but she still hopes the school will be more proactive about setting traps and controlling the rodent problem.

Smith believed the university did not quite live up to their promises to fix the rodent problem in her room. “As soon as [Facilites] could, they sent someone over with traps, and he looked around to see if there were any signs of stuff, but it wasn’t a very good look, per se,” Smith said. “He put down two traps and that was it. Nothing ever got caught.”

During a search of Smith’s room, university representatives failed to find the location where the rat could have entered the room. However, Smith’s friends easily found a hole in the wall two days later when scanning her room.

“When we found [the hole], we reported it to our RA again,” Smith said. “Our RA put in three different requests to get it fixed in a timely manner. They did repair the hole.” 

According to Brauer, repairing holes is essential to stopping rodents from entering dorm rooms. “The trouble with gaps is that mice can get through tiny gaps,” Brauer said. “They can basically disjoint all their joints, and get through almost anywhere. They can probably get through a hole a size of a nickel.”

Smith believed her RA was the most helpful to her and her roommate. Her RA, Emmalea McNay, filled the hole with steel wool which rats cannot chew through. Even though Facilities fixed the hole, the steel wool prevented more rodents from entering the room before it was sealed off.

The email Hogan sent out additionally noted that USD works with an outside company, Terminex, for proactive pest control through the year. In this case, Terminex will continue to assist USD in rodent reduction in the interior of both Camino’s and Founders’ halls.

Smith was told that Terminex would come the following Monday after the initial sighting  to manage the situation, but they didn’t show up. She was then told that they could come on Wednesday, but again, a Terminex representative failed to show up. 

“We kind of just gave up, since we didn’t see any other signs of the rats but none of them got caught,” Smith said. 

While no rats in Smith’s room were caught, Brauer stated around five rodents have been caught.

The university is taking steps to control and further prohibit rodent infestation. Along with working with Terminex, the school is removing any rodents it sees and  trimming trees surrounding Camino and Founders, a recommendation by the pest control company. Yeoman also recommended that first-years in Camino and Founders take precautions to avoid rats in dorm rooms: “I suggest that [residents] put all of [their] food in closed plastic containers, and I would keep any food [they] have off the floor,”  Yeoman said.

Facilities Management is attempting to handle the situation quickly, but acknowledges that it is not an emergency. “While it’s a definite nuisance, it’s definitely not what I could classify as an immediate health issue at this state,” Brauer said. “It would have to be a massive infestation to be a huge health issue.”

As university officials continue to solve the issue of unwanted rodents, students including Smith continue to be inconvenienced. The university plans on removing the rodents soon, so Camino and Founders residents can go about their living space without worrying about a new rat.

Celina Tebor | Feature Editor | The USD Vista