Eric Zuniga, Campus Carrier news editor
Jen Vincent, Campus Carrier staff writer
Rumors of flea infestations in residence halls have been circulating on campus since the start of classes three weeks ago. Students have speculated about pervasive flea issues affecting multiple rooms and residence halls.
According to Residence Life Director Stephen Swieton, maintenance staff has only confirmed the continued, persistent presence of fleas in one room on campus.
“We are hearing that on a regular basis, that there are fleas everywhere; campus is totally taken over by fleas,” Swieton said. “The fact is, there is only one place on campus where we have found fleas that we are currently treating. It is not everywhere.”
Recent pest problems appear to be connected with students bringing unapproved animals into residential spaces. Swieton said that a student brought an unapproved animal over the summer into the room that is still being treated for fleas.
“There was an animal that was unapproved that came to campus this summer that brought fleas. We are continuing to work to treat that,” Swieton said. “The last update I’ve gotten is that we’re still treating that room; we’re still following up with that room.”
Service animals and emotional support animals are the only animals allowed to live on campus with students. Service animals are dogs trained to assist people with particular disabilities. They do not need to be registered with the college and are allowed to enter any space on campus under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Emotional support animals (ESA) must be approved as an accommodation for students by the Academic Success Center. They are only allowed to enter the residential space of the student for whom they are approved. According to Switon, students with ESAs must submit veterinary records annually, which makes them less likely to bring pests to campus.
“For our students who have ESAs, those students know they have to turn in vet records, so they’re going to the vet, they’re getting the vaccinations,” Swieton said. “We don’t have [the pest] issue as much with ESAs. We really have that issue with unauthorized animals, especially when we find an animal outside and then bring it home.”
Students who bring unapproved animals to campus are charged a $250 fine plus the cost of any damage the animal causes, including the cost of fumigation for pest infestations. Swieton said that the college contracts with Orkin, a pest control company, when students report pest issues. Flea infestations may require multiple rounds of fumigation.
“For fleas, if [Orkin] goes in to do a flea treatment, you can’t be in the space for four hours after. We would schedule that with a student,” Swieton said. “If we needed to do multiple, we might say, let’s find you a temporary space to stay to manage that.”
Although Residence Life has only confirmed the continued presence of fleas in one room, other students have had their rooms treated for fleas at the beginning of the year. Sophomore Gail Sanders found fleas in her cottage when she moved in early before classes started. She said she does not know the cause of the infestation, but speculated that an unapproved animal may have lived in the cottage before her.
“I was here over the summer, so I moved in during transition block. They were there as soon as I got there,” Sanders said. “I believe there’s some talk about service animals that weren’t properly cared for by students that were left in the house or something like that. If not that, because Berry has a lot of wildlife around, it’s completely possible that it came from something outside the house.”
Sanders filed a maintenance request about the issue, which she said was promptly addressed by Residence Life staff.
“Residence Life was on it with communicating with Physical Plant, with Orkin about getting them out there to spray and all of that,” Sanders said. “They were able to come and do that pretty quickly. Residence Life was really explicit on like, if you need anything just let us know.”
The cottage required two treatments. After the first treatment, Sanders said that she and her roommates found the fumes too strong to return to the dorm that night. She added that Residence Life staff were cooperative in securing temporary housing and scheduling a second treatment to exterminate the remaining fleas.
“We contacted Residence Life, and they were like, ‘yeah, if the fumes are too strong we’ll provide y’all with temporary housing,” Sanders said. “After the first treatment the fleas weren’t still gone, which is completely typical. It takes multiple treatments to get rid of an infestation. They came in, did a second treatment two weeks ago. Since then we have not seen any more fleas.”
Sanders said that she appreciates the way her problem was addressed, but added that unapproved animals can cause headaches for students and staff.
“It was kind of a lot to deal with, but I’m really thankful that it’s been handled and I don’t have to worry about it,” Sanders said. “[Fleas] are an inconvenience for everyone — staff has to deal with it. No one wants for this stuff to happen. It’s not ideal.”
Sophomore Bo-Smith Wysong, who lives in Dana, said that flea problems caused by unapproved animals should be dealt with more quickly.
“I feel like it should get reported, investigated, dealt with, fumigated, just like, get rid of it as soon as possible,” Wysong said. “I did hear that it could be because of people bringing in strays and stuff like that, but even then, just clean it, kill the fleas.”
Sanders said that there should be tougher restrictions placed on unauthorized animals on campus.
“I love that we’re able to have [ESAs] on campus —it’s phenomenal, but I think there should be some stricter regulations about unauthorized animals,” Sanders said. “I know there are a lot of cats on campus and I know that we have a lot of really kind-hearted people who want to take care of animals, but it’s not always the right move. If anything, it might be hurting more people.”