Totally rat-ical: Thomas Hall’s rat problem continues

Facilities Services places traps and seals entrances to the building

At the beginning of the semester, rats were noticed in Bruce Thomas Hall. Though Facilities Services expected to eliminate the infestation by mid-February, students have continued to find rats in their rooms. Additionally, according to students, they have spread from the seventh floor to other parts of Thomas.

Since the first rat sighting in February, there have been 53 official reports of rats to facilities in Thomas. Bret Biance, Director of Residential Life, says that the rat activity is being closely monitored by both Residential Life and Facilities Services.

“Each time the possibility of vermin existed our facilities team came out, trapped the location, addressed any cleaning needs and provided mitigation guidance,” Biance wrote in an email. “On my side, my Residential Life team continues to be the liaison with facilities around reporting, coordinating room changes and providing general education to the residents of Thomas.”

Ernesto Gonzalez, Associate Director of Facilities Services, has been monitoring the situation by sealing entrances to the buildings, placing traps in the rooms and contacting residents. These methods have stayed fairly consistent since the first rat sighting in February.

“The change is that I will now have traps above all closet ceilings in Thomas rather than just the rooms reporting a disturbance. All locations with traps will be checked twice a week.” Gonzalez wrote in an email.

Though the problems were expected to end in early March, the rodents have continued to be a constant source of frustration for Thomas residents.

“One of my friends opened the closet door and heard rustling. I was like, ‘You’re just exaggerating, there’s not a rat in my room.’ And I opened the door and made eye contact with a rat as it scurried away,” said Tucker Craft, sophomore Global Latinx Studies major.

In most of the rooms, the rats stay in the ceilings of the closets. Many residents, including Carson Hechler, sophomore political science major, noted the damage the rats had done to items in the closet and to the room itself.

“Part of the closet carpet has been completely chewed up. They chewed through a bit of my food. They pooped on my bed one night, and also I have found a bit of ceiling panel on my floor,” Hechler said.

Facilities is only able to replace damaged ceiling tiles, so the other damaged objects are the responsibility of the students. The rodents have caused other issues beyond just damaged items. Though Kim Granados, sophomore English major, has been one of the few Thomas residents without rats, she has certainly noticed their presence in the hall.

“Our room started smelling awful and we were suspecting that there was a dead one in the vents,” Granados said. “It’s honestly really stressful because it’s where we live. It’s a health and safety hazard. It’s disgusting.”

Biance notes that the rats are more likely to stay in rooms where they can find food.

“Many of our students leave their perishable foods on the shelves in their closet and when given time and privacy they will continue to visit […] The best thing a student can do is repurpose the moving bins or totes they store in their room and place their food in there. The second most impactful practice is ensuring the room remains tidy and recycling/trash are taken out regularly,” Biance wrote.

Thomas Bates, a Thomas Resident Assistant, stresses the importance of reporting rat sightings as soon as possible so Facilities can be effective.

“I actually think people don’t see all the things they’ve been doing […] They have people checking the rooms every day and working on the problem. They have set up like as soon as someone complains that [the rats] are in their room,” Bates said.

However, residents have complained about communication gaps from Facilities.

“My biggest complaint is that there’s been no communication about what’s happening. I don’t know where the rats are, I don’t know how the rats are traveling, I don’t know if there’s anything I could do to stop the rats from traveling,” Craft said, “Now, we have no updates. We’re completely in the dark […] Why have there been rats in our living space all semester, and we’ve received a total of three emails about it?”