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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Letts Hall - 23/24 stock

Letts residents report rampant rodent problem

University said pest control work will be done in Letts over spring break, summer months

Since the beginning of the semester, Letts Hall residents said they’ve dealt with rodents in their building, an issue they say hasn’t been adequately addressed by the American University administration. 

Multiple residents, most living on the third and sixth floors of Letts, said they have seen mice in their rooms and lounges. Pest control will do remedial work in the residence hall over spring break and the summer, according to Elizabeth Deal, assistant vice president for community and internal communication, but students said they have not heard anything from the University about these plans.

‘They’re everywhere’

Alex Ace, a Letts resident and freshman in the School of Public Affairs, said the mouse problem started after students returned from winter break.

Ace said he once didn’t go to sleep until 5 a.m. because he was trying to catch a mouse that was running around his room. He said he regularly heard the mice through his ceiling tiles, which made it difficult to sleep for a few nights.

“They’ve been on the move,” said Michael Bruk, a Letts resident and freshman in the School of International Service and SPA. “They crawled under my neighbor’s door, like crawled under the door to escape the room … yeah, they’re everywhere.”

One resident reported seeing mice as early as mid-fall semester, adding that mice are not the only animals she’s found in her room. 

Inari Sohn, a freshman in SIS and the College of Arts and Sciences, said she found a dead bird in her Letts dorm room on Jan. 31, which she picked up with paper towels and discarded. She said found a dead mouse next to her roommate’s bed last semester on Oct. 26.

mice in letts pic

2Fix, the University’s facilities management team, placed three mouse traps in Sohn’s room in January after she and her roommate saw and heard rodents a couple of times in their room. She said the traps have not caught anything and she can still sometimes hear mice scuttling in the walls.

“I think my roommate has been trying to fall asleep,” Sohn said. “And she would talk about how she heard them in the wall near the radiator as she’s studying late at night and then also falling asleep.”

Sohn lives in a corner room on the sixth floor, which she said explains why more pests appear in her room. 

Bruk’s roommate, SPA freshman Achyuth Sarath, said he saw a mouse scurry across the floor out of the corner of his eye in his sixth-floor room. Although Sarath only once saw a mouse inside Letts, he said his friends have called 2Fix to have mouse traps placed in their rooms.

“We’re paying thousands of dollars in tuition,” Sarath said. “I would like to live in a place that doesn’t have mice and animals running around and dead animals lying around.”

He added that even students who may not see the mice are still impacted by the rodent problem in Letts.

“Even if people haven’t seen [mice] on the floor in their rooms, I had a lot of friends who say, ‘Hey, I’ve heard things running around at night, maybe in the ceiling boards or something,’” Sarath said.

These students have expressed concerns about the residence hall’s quality. Letts is home to some University College living-learning communities and three-year cohort programs such as the Politics, Policy and Law Scholars, Public Health Scholars and Global Scholars programs.

Elise Harr, another resident and a freshman in CAS, said she called her dad in a panic when she saw a mouse run underneath her bed in her third-floor room in Letts on Feb. 17.

“[My roommate and I] were kind of a little panicked; we didn’t really know what to do at first,” Harr said, adding that they would have benefited from an email detailing how to deal with rodents if they encountered one indoors.

Harr said her roommate called 2Fix, who “pretty much helped us take care of everything.” A maintenance worker brought mouse traps to their room within about half an hour. The mouse in Harr’s room was caught in the trap the night of Feb. 17, and a 2Fix employee came to their room at 7:30 a.m. the following morning to collect it, Harr said.

Gabi Lefkowitz, a freshman in the School of Communication who lives on the third floor of Letts, said she saw a mouse on the night of Feb. 6.

“It was really late at night and … the lights were dim, but I saw a mouse-like shape scurry out,” Lefkowitz said. 

Lefkowitz said she called 2Fix the following morning, and a maintenance worker came to her room within five to six hours to place a mouse trap under her vent and in the space between the refrigerator and wall.

The two mouse traps have yet to catch anything and Lefkowitz said she and her roommate have not seen any more mice in their room. 

‘Kept on the down-low’

Although ultimately satisfied with 2Fix’s promptness, Harr and Lefkowitz said they have not received any form of communication from the University or Housing and Residence Life about the rodent issue. Lefkowitz said her floor’s resident assistant had not mentioned the problem either, despite multiple residents’ reports to 2Fix of mice in their rooms and lounge.

“I just feel like they need to do a better job addressing the students’ problems because I feel like all they’re doing about it is putting in mouse traps,” Lefkowitz said. “And yes, that’s beneficial to your own room, but I’ve had so many people in my hall just seeing mice, like we’re paying so much money. Why do we have a rodent problem and why are they not saying anything about it? At least if they know that it’s an issue, actually try to do something about it.”

Letts houses first-year and transfer students. It costs $11,030 per year for a double occupancy room, up $800 from spring 2022. This rate is identical for the adjacent freshman residence hall Anderson Hall. 

“I just feel like they’re not acknowledging that their dorms are not in the best quality,” Lefkowitz said of the University’s administration.

Ace said he agreed that the University should take action further than setting mouse traps.

“I feel like they need to kind of get on top of it definitely, and that they definitely have the resources to take care of it and they just have really yet to do anything about it,” Ace said. “I mean, the only way you can get action is if you call [2Fix] and then they put a mouse trap in your room or something, which I don’t think is super effective.”

Harr said she wants more transparency and communication from the University about issues in residence halls.

“I feel like it was kind of a surprise how common it is to have mice or to have insects or any issues like that, and I feel like when we do reach out for help, they’re kind of — not secretive at all — but it’s just kept on the down-low, which I understand,” Harr said. “But I feel like being more open about it would be helpful.”

Elizabeth Deal said the University takes a proactive and reactive approach to pest control, which is led by a “certified pest control coordinator” who has an ACE Certification

“Our specialist will respond to same day inspection requests during business days/hour[s] and weekend and after-hours calls are handled by other members of the FM team,” Deal wrote in an email to The Eagle. “While they are not trained exterminators, they will provide traps and conduct removal of a trap, if needed. If a call comes in after-hours, our certified pest control specialist will follow up the next business day.” 

Sohn, who described Letts as the “worst living situation” on AU’s campus, said although she is glad to hear that Letts is undergoing pest control work over spring break, she would have liked to hear that update from the University.

“They should tell students that because I feel like students would be happy to hear that,” Sohn said. “Like keep students up to date on what they’re doing, so even if it’s not working, they can at least know that the University’s trying something or even acknowledging that it’s a problem.”

As of March 6, students have not received email communication about the pest control work or the next steps for the hall.

Deal said specialists also inspect students’ rooms by request for “mouse activity, damaged food, droppings, rub marks or smell” and gaps in the floorboards to report to 2Fix. Specialists inspect the ceilings and set traps if such activity is discovered. Rooms are inspected regardless of signs of pests as well.

“In addition to these professional services, we recommend that students [keep] food in tightly sealed plastic containers, not leaving dirty dishes in the room, keeping the room decluttered, and emptying trash daily, as this will help with mitigation methods,” Deal wrote.

Letts was last renovated in 2012 to “modernize the residence hall for incoming students.” The building was then inspected for “significant mold growth” in the fall 2018 semester and a dead mouse was discovered in a ceiling tile in Letts in the fall 2021 semester.

Deal said Letts is scheduled to undergo renovation during the summers of 2026 and 2027. Bruk listed his hopes for the upcoming renovations.

“Just further [address] the rodent problems because they’ve been putting a lot of traps around, but it hasn’t really decreased the issues, and then a renovation to the lounges and to the bathrooms would be particularly nice,” Bruk said.

This article was edited by Kathryn Squyres, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Ariana Kavoossi.

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