During winter quarter, students in Eleanor Roosevelt College faced a mice infestation. While residents reported the problem to Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) and pest control, many students and parents felt the measures taken did not sufficiently address the infestation.
First-floor residents of Latin America Hall found the rodents in various parts of the dorms, including under the beds. The students were initially alerted to the issue when they found droppings in various parts of the dorm last fall quarter. However, it wasn’t until they returned to campus for the winter that the mice-sightings began.
Sohum Seedhar, a first year who was affected by the infestation, said in a statement to The Triton, “We actually started seeing multiple mice of different sizes and knew at that point that there were more than one and were most likely breeding in our dorm somewhere.”
Deciding to investigate, the residents checked various areas before eventually encountering the source of the outbreak. “Under one of my suitemate’s beds we found a box which they formed a nest in,” Seedhar said.
Mice infestations are not new. Anna Mai, a UCSD summer program student, faced a similar issue in December 2020 during her stay in the Mesa apartments, part of HDH’s Graduate and Family Housing.
Upon finding a mouse in the kitchen, Mai and her roommate contacted their landlord and received mouse traps and poison. While the poison proved unsuccessful, they were able to catch two mice with the traps.
However, Associate Communications Director Leslie Sepuka advises students to approach HDH rather than address an infestation on their own. If HDH is not notified, she stated, “The root cause of the infestation [will be left] unresolved which will lead to repeat occurrences and spread to other areas.”
Seedhar and his roommates contacted HDH immediately. Unlike in Mai’s case, Seedhar noted that the mice quickly began to outnumber the students. Soon, worried parents got involved.
“ERC is infested…! Last night [a] family of 4 [was found] in one of the student’s room[s],” Seedhar’s mother, Anoushka, stated in a Facebook post.
Despite the students contacting HDH as advised, Anoushka was upset by the University’s reaction to the issue. She claimed that HDH had been largely unresponsive or was redirecting the students’ calls when they tried to get help.
“I’m worried for all the kids in Latin America Hall! They’re leaving messages, but nothing is happening,” she said.
On its webpage on handling indoor pests, the Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department lists mice indoors as a “routine situation” and states that students will generally be contacted within one to three days by the pest management team for an inspection. In a statement to The Triton, Sepuka stated that “EH&S, as a part of their customer service commitment, contacts the residents the same day or next business day” to address the situation and outline a plan of action.
However, Seedhar reports that EH&S arrived at Latin America Hall a week later, following multiple complaints.
EH&S’s solution—to place mouse traps across the area, as Mai and her roommate had done—did address the issue to an extent, killing several mice. Dorm residents also decided to take matters into their own hands, though, by trapping other rodents “in corners or under trash bins,” Seedhar says.
According to Seedhar, these actions , “still did not make us feel safe in our rooms.” Some students were so concerned that they chose not to sleep in their rooms and instead “crashed on the couches in our common area.”
In the past, HDH has been more successful in addressing infestation issues. First year Justin Lau faced a cockroach infestation in the Douglas Warren Apartments he was staying in during winter quarter last year. In a statement to The Triton, Lau described waking up to a “horrifyingly alarming text” from his roommate that detailed a “serious cockroach infestation…[with] babies and adults sprawling all throughout the kitchen floor.”
“We had been living with a roach infestation the whole 6 months without a clue in the world,” said Lau. “I assume this may have been an underlying issue throughout the years that was just unkept or just went unnoticed.”
Sepuka says numerous measures are taken by HDH to avoid undetected infestations.
“HDH Custodial Services perform pre and post move cleanings for residential units in the academic year and report to EH&S any pest related concerns so an inspection can be scheduled and a treatment plan initiated to mitigate any pest related concerns promptly,” Sepuka said.
As in Seedhar’s case, the students immediately contacted HDH while simultaneously addressing the issue on their own by purchasing ‘Roach Motel’ traps. However, in contrast to Seedhar, Lau described HDH’s response as “straightforward and professional”. He stated that he and his suitemates were able to book the nearest time slot for pest control and evacuated the apartment for a couple of hours while the issue was successfully resolved.
The University advises students who face infestations to notify HDH Customer Service instead of resolving the situation on their own. The EH&S website also contains specific tips on how to address various pest infestations.
Sarvani Kolachana is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton.