When Amy Huang ’23 went to put on her shoes, she didn’t expect to find three baby mice inside one of them. “I went to put on my sneakers only for my left foot to hit something soft, squishy, and squeaking inside my shoe. Turns out a mouse had made a nest inside it and had babies,” she recalled.
Huang, who lives on the fourth floor of Strong, has been dealing with a recurring mice problem for months. Despite setting up multiple traps, she has had no success in fixing the problem. Huang explained that at night she can hear mice scurrying around, which has started to interfere with her sleep: “Once I left a fully-wrapped muffin on top of my desk overnight and woke up to find the plastic wrapper bitten through and about a fifth of the muffin gone, which isn’t as bad as the time my friend down the hall woke up to find a mouse in bed with her” she described. Huang eventually found a hole in the wall behind her bed and plugged it with duct tape, hoping that would solve the problem.
Huang’s plight is not unique; according to Director of the Residential Operations Center (ROC) Anna Belle Gadsen-Jones, there have always been problems with mice in various dorms. However, she noted: “This year [the mice problem] has been more than I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been working here for 32 years.” She explained that this increase in mice is due to campus social-distancing measures which have forced students to eat and keep food in their rooms.
Students also pointed out that food is a major factor in attracting mice into dorm rooms. This year Karina Carmona ’23 had mice in her Main dorm room. She purchased electric mice traps which caught six mice. She felt frustrated that she had to manage the situation mostly on her own: “We ended up just taking matters into our own hands and spending a total of $80 to get rid of the mice because the exterminator told us the mice problem wouldn’t be resolved on the second floor because we live above the Registrar’s office, and they frequently leave food out,” said Carmona. [Note: the Registrar’s office has worked remotely since March 2020].
The exterminator did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Students have complained about a lack of assistance from campus services regarding mice problems. Gadsden-Jones explained that the ROC tried to help by offering students door sweeps, which block mice from entering the dorm rooms via the hallways. She also explained that Facilities Operations contracts with a local pest control company to address these complaints. The company comes on Mondays, Wednesdays and occasionally Fridays when needed.
Emma Iandanza ’22 felt frustrated with the lack of assistance she received regarding the mice in her dorm. Iadanza began to hear mice in the walls of her single in Strong House in October of 2020. She witnessed mice running in her room and later discovered mouse droppings. Vassar Facilities Operations connected her with the exterminator, who said he did not find any holes in her room. He set out a few poison traps and offered to install a rubber stopper underneath her door to prevent mice from coming in from outside, but this did not fix the problem.
Iadanza suffered from rashes and bites brought on by mice mites. “I got a horrible rash which I later realized was from mice mites that apparently live[d] on the animals and bit me all semester,” she said. She later found multiple holes herself, mainly in her closet, and plugged them with latex gloves and duct tape.
On the other hand, Adam Chapnik ’21 has had success in dealing with the mice in his room in Main after experimenting with multiple different types of traps. An exterminator came to his room, on the request of others in his hallway, shortly after he caught a second mouse in his traps. He has not had any problems since the exterminator came.
In response to these claims, Associate Vice President for Communications Gladwyn Lopez shared the following statement via email: “We are taking this situation extremely seriously.
We have been working with an outside pest control company during the semester and have increased garbage pickup in dorms. This summer we have plans in place for additional wide-scale pest control and physical updates to the spaces after students leave for the summer.”
He concluded, “In the meantime, any student who sees a mouse in their dorm should put in a service request through the Residential Operations Center.”