I have to say, I’ve never had that big of a problem with Brandeis housing. I’ve evaded the mold, avoided the ant infestations of Grad and only had nightmares of ever encountering an East bug. Truly I only had a brief problem with heating my freshman year when we walked around in winter coats because our half of the building had no heat.
It is not lost on me how lucky I have been to have almost made it through my four years without any serious housing issues. Then we reached my penultimate semester.
Everything I have encountered this semester is by no means the fault of our maintenance staff who are already terribly overworked and are asked to maintain an already failing infrastructure on campus. No, no this is a larger structural issue of our university and the priority they will give to remedying student housing.
You see, it started with one mouse. As it usually does, and then one mouse became two and two became seven. Oh yeah, that’s right, seven.
But this problem didn’t start this semester. No, it started over the summer.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and go back to when the university announced students staying over the summer would be lodged in the Foster Mods Residence Quad instead of in Ziv Quad where they are typically housed. That’s right, remember the outrage when the university decided to move students from an air-conditioned dorm to a dorm with zero air conditioning during the hottest months of the year? Not the point that I’m getting at, but let’s trudge up dirt while we’re at it.
Living in mods over the summer provided students with the experience of meeting some friendly little creatures, who I was warned about in August when I moved into my dorm which my friend had lived in over the summer. My friend recounted that the mice “tore a hole through our screen though to escape because it got too hot.” That right there is a direct quote. This is entirely amusing to me because not even the mouse could take the heat of living in Mods during the July heat wave. But seeing no evil, I wanted to believe there was no evil. Oh, how mistaken I was.
Everyone said “live in Mods,” and “Mods is so much fun,” but they clearly left out the part about there being a problem with some little friends. Earlier in the semester, we would see mice crawling into Mods adjacent to us from our common room. And we would laugh and say well at least it isn’t us. Then we would hear squeaking in the walls that we were hoping we could chalk up to bad pipes. We were just listening as we heard stories from our friends, who are also in lower Mods, who were setting up traps and having mice outsmart them. And then one day they’re in your Mod too, staring at you as you stare at them.
But to give the university some credit, we did receive an email from the Department of Community Living (DCL) that read:
“Hello Mod Residents,
Due to the ongoing mice issues in the Mods, our Facilities pest contractor UltraFast will be treating all common spaces this coming Thursday (November 10th) from 12-4 pm. They will not be entering any bedrooms, they are only treating common areas”
Grand! They’ve heard us! After having submitted work orders and filed complaints going unanswered we got a response! The pest contractor came in and plugged up some holes in our mod with steel wool. An effective way of minimizing mice (this is not sarcasm). But the problem was bigger than patching up a few holes.
For one, they left the huge hole under our sink open which we can only assume goes to the outdoors. They also left a hole in our ceiling open, which literally looks like water poured through it at some point in time and made the ceiling cave in. But it’s our trash closet so we don’t really care about the state of the ceiling—again, another problem, but I digress.
But things got worse after the pest control group came. That’s when we started finding them and realized the mouse-to-human ratio in our mod was at least 1:1. We found one mouse caught in a glue trap they had left. Dead. My roommate ended up throwing it out into the dumpster. Then when going to get a cheese stick I encountered five mice chilling in our cabinet. A pretty unfortunate time and unpleasant experience. Being the exterminator professionals that we are, my roommate and I were trying to spray the mice with Raid—you know, the insect killer spray. A truly terrible idea on our part because the mice just started to eat the Raid. And one ended up getting squished between our fridge and cabinet: this brings our dead mouse total up to two.
My roommates then proceeded to trap another mouse in a green box. They released that mouse and have since thrown out that green box. Having found their little nest in our kitchen, my roommates and I cleaned out the cabinet and removed their food sources hoping to get them to go into the human trap we had bought.
This worked and we have since caught five mice in that trap, bringing our mouse total up to seven with two being killed and five being captured and released to a secondary location away from dorm buildings.
Overall this has been a real rollercoaster of the last 72 hours. I love being scared every time I go into my kitchen. I love being outsmarted by a mouse with three other human beings with me. It is pretty comical and a bonding moment for sure with my roommates. All of this to say, though, that we shouldn’t have had to scrape a dead mouse off of our fridge with a plastic fork.
There is a serious structural problem with our housing on campus and the means by which our university goes about fixing them. We have fallen into this cycle where the university fixes these large infrastructure issues with small cosmetic remedies. This leads to a greater problem down the road. But we never learn our lesson. We continue to put bandages on wounds that need stitches. Steel wool is great, but you’ve got a whole mouse infestation on your hands. Call it what it is. Recognize what your students are living in. Don’t tell us we are overreacting when you haven’t had to drive to Norumbega Road to release a mouse at 10 p.m. in the snow.
But what can I say, my parents have told us to reach out to facilities but what is that going to do? We already have and there hasn’t been a change. Plus, they are already overworked and cannot intervene with a problem of this magnitude after the university let it get out of hand.
I’d like to say this experience has built character and I’ve made perhaps the coolest article title in my Brandeis Hoot career—I’m sure my 18-month-old nephew is very proud.