Four Slippery Rock students began noticing German cockroaches around their ROCK apartment in building 330 one week before the academic school year officially started. The issue is now calming down after an ongoing six week conflict with the university, which has overtime, created stress and anxiety for the residents.
“I didn’t anticipate my senior year starting like this,” Melanie Zdobinski, Elementary Education major, said. “I don’t like feeling that I can’t live in my own apartment. I feel disgusted.”
Zbodinkski along with Danica Adams, Psychology major, Sarah Conley, English Education major, and Casey Squires, Arts Administration major, signed a contract to live in the ROCK apartments for the 2014-2015 school year in Oct. 2013.
Conley wanted to move into the apartment over the summer, but it was already occupied by a tenant. Once the tenant moved out, Conley moved in right away. Moving in that quickly did not give the university the opportunity to clean the apartment before Conley arrived.
“My mom and I cleaned the apartment top to bottom,” Conley said.
Throughout the apartment, Conley and her mom noticed “dog pee pads,” dog fur, and dog toys throughout the apartment. They also noticed bugs throughout the apartment, but thought they disturbed their hiding place. They bought bug traps and notified the Desk Assistant (DA) of the ROCK apartments on Aug. 17.
Squires was next to move into the apartment and she as well noticed bugs throughout the apartment and notified the DA as well.
According to a timeline of events that the residents compiled, the university first contacted the residents about the issue on Aug. 21. Dallas Cott, Assistant Director of Campus Services, came into the apartment and looks around, but did not confirm anything. A few days later, he declared that the bugs were “water bugs”. After he sprayed the bugs, he told the residents that they can return their food back to the kitchen, but after he finished treatment, the residents still experienced bug problems.
Unsatisfied with Cott’s diagnosis, Squires took a picture of one of the water bugs and conducted her own research on the bugs. Squires said she came across the fact that the water bugs are the same thing as German cockroaches. She used her picture and created a side by side comparison of a picture of a German cockroach from the internet and the one she found in the apartment. Squires then tweeted the picture at the university’s account.
According to the timeline, Daniel Brown, Assistant Director of Housing Operations, sent the residents an email saying that problem is still being address and LEAF, SRU’s contracted exterminator, was being brought in to treat the infestation. Brown asked that all social media posts were deleted and Squires agreed in order to give the university a chance to fix the problem.
On Aug. 29, LEAF came in and treated the kitchen and bathroom of the apartment, but not the living room and bedrooms. Zboninski noticed some improvement with the bugs, but she still noticed a vast amount of cockroaches around the dishwasher.
Squires went to the Health Center on Sept. 3 to express her anxiety over the situation that prevents her from getting a good night’s sleep. She also mentions to the health center that she was allergic to cockroaches. At that time, Squires was offered alternative housing, while the other residents were not. They felt this broke the contract that they signed back in October agreeing that they all would live together. On that same day, Conley went to make herself a cup of coffee from her Keurig. She washed the cup out before she used it, made the coffee, set the mug down, returned to finish it, and at the bottom of her cup, she found a cockroach.
Over the next few weeks, the residents found that the issue was not getting taken care of properly and they began to find cockroaches bigger than ones found previously. The residents began to find cockroaches in three out of the four bedrooms of the apartments. Squires called LEAF to discuss a new treatment plan.
According to the roommates, they said to Brown that they wanted the dishwasher to be taken out of the apartment before LEAF came again. LEAF expressed that they would not treat the apartment if the dishwasher was still present. On Sept. 18, LEAF came to treat the apartment again and the dishwasher was still in the apartment.
The girls felt they deserved to be compensated, as the issue lasted for six weeks and two of the roommates had to withdraw from classes due to falling behind in class and anxiety. Some roommates requested $745 in rent and $125 in flex. Debra Pincek, Executive Director of Student Services, denied the girls this request and offered them $100 in flex, as the residents had to throw away most of their food and were not able to use their kitchen.
Squires requested to meet with Philip Way, Provost of Academic and Student Affairs, on Sept. 24 at noon. Some parents of the residents attended the meeting.
“Unfortunately, multiple approaches will be required to eradicate the problem completely,” Way explained. “We regret that the resolution of the problem is taking longer than expected, but we are following the advice of the experts in this field to fully address this problem. We are also reviewing our work order policies and procedures to see if changes are needed to insure we are responding quickly to residents’ concerns.”
Way agreed that the dishwasher is one of the sites of the cockroaches and a new dishwasher has been ordered and will be installed in the apartment as soon as possible.
“I wish I could guarantee that we would never have insects in any of our buildings again, but that’s an impossible guarantee to make,” Way said. “All we can do, and here everyone can help, is to keep the facilities as clean as possible and remove trash from living spaces as quickly as possible. We all need to remember that by eliminating the bugs’ food supply and getting rid of their favorite hiding spots, we can reduce the risk of them taking up residence. As the weather turns colder, I encourage everyone to make sure doors and windows are kept closed, food is sealed up tight and recyclables are rinsed thoroughly and, as these residents did, contact Residence Life immediately if you notice a problem.”
Way explained that health and safety of students is his first priority, but it is very difficult to make accommodations when on campus housing is at its capacity.
The residents agree with Way that everything the university has done to take care of the situation has helped, but they just wish the university would have been more proactive about the situation. They believe the process of exterminating the cockroaches should not have been a six week process.
Squires said that at this point, they only find about one cockroach a day in the apartment.