Oh, rats! Thomas Residence Hall experiences its first rodent problem

Facilities Services and Residential Life work together to trap and remove the rats

Oh, rats! Thomas Residence Hall experiences its first rodent problem

On Feb. 3, rats were spotted on the seventh floor of Bruce Thomas Residence Hall. These rats caused a significant disturbance to the students living there. However, Facilities Services, Pest Control and Residential Life have been working together to get the problem under control.

The concern was brought up to Facilities Services, who immediately began working to get rid of the rodents. Ernesto Gonzalez, Associate Director of Facilities Services, explained via email the preventive measures taken.

“Our staff, myself included, have worked to seal as many openings around the perimeter of the building, under the building, in mechanical rooms and resident rooms to prevent more rodents from entering the structure. We have placed rodent traps throughout the building and more importantly above the closet ceiling of every room that has reported an incident.” Gonzalez wrote.

The measures taken have not included the use of poison. Bret Biance, Director of Residential Life, explained the concerns associated with using poison.

“For instance, the animal could die in the wall and that would create some significant smells throughout the building, or the animal could die in a public space and a service animal or emotional support animal (ESA) could come into contact with the rodent and become sick or die,” he said.

Residential Life and Facilities Services have been in close contact with students to mitigate the spread of the rats.

“Either Richard Martinez, the staff member that manages all pest control on campus, or I will go to the location of the complaint to assess, clean, and set traps. If sanitizing the space is necessary, I will call in our custodial contractor to sanitize the areas of concern,” Gonzalez wrote.

For the most part, interactions between students and Facilities Services have been successful.

“We will communicate with the resident what they can expect from us as we work toward a resolution, how they can help prevent any further activity, and how and who to contact if they experience any further disturbance. Most students that have been impacted have been incredibly understanding and patient with the process,” said Gonzalez.

Some students, however, have been frustrated, including Nicolas Diaz, seventh floor Thomas resident.

“I didn’t notice we had a rat problem [when I got back to campus] until my roommates arrived, opened their closet, and were like, ‘oh we have a rat problem. They chewed through the ceiling and there’s rat poop in the closet and they chewed through my slippers,’” Diaz said. “Maybe I’m just entitled, but I feel like at a university with a $60k sticker price, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

The source of the rats remains unknown. However, Bret Biance suspects that the rats came from inside the building.

“If it had been natural causes, the animals would have found food on a lower level floor and not expanded upwards. What is more likely to have occurred is a pet escaped during Winter Break and the extra time at the beginning of the semester gave the animals time to establish themselves,” Biance said.

According to Gonzalez, the rat problem in Thomas is unprecedented.
“In the sixteen combined years that my Senior Director and I have been in Facilities Services, this is the first incident where we have had to mitigate a rodent issue in Thomas Hall,” he said.

There has not been a rat sighting since Feb. 17.

“I have heard the term infestation used to describe this problem, but that is not an accurate description of what is happening in Thomas. We certainly have an unpleasant issue to resolve, but this is by far no infestation,” stated Gonzalez. “We will find a resolution, but it will take some time. As alarming as this situation can be to residents, I am so appreciative of the understanding and patience our Thomas residents have as we try to eliminate the activity.”