Sabrina Hemida is a freshman sociology major.
Sakshi Kashyap is a sophomore sociology major.
The majority of this piece was written before students were asked to vacate their residence halls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of San Francisco is home to thousands of brilliant minds. Unfortunately, it
is home to pesky rodents, as well. Pacific Wing, commonly known as “Pac Wing,” is a residence hall on Lone Mountain that houses transfer students. And from October to early March of this school year, Pac Wing was also home to a rodent infestation.
Several Pac Wing residents had encounters with rodents in their rooms. Initially, they were just advised to keep their rooms “clean,” but even after doing so, the problem persisted. In late February, Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) sent out an email claiming that pest control would come twice a week to monitor the issue. The email also insisted that residents “call in any and all rodent issues so Facilities can continue to check rooms and try to fill holes.”
Around February, SHaRE placed rodent traps in the dorm rooms of students who informed them of rodents. However, these traps were placed a day or two after students called, when the rodents were inactive or had moved on to other rooms. They also attempted to cover the bottom of the doors with wooden slabs to prevent mice from sneaking in — however, the mice were traveling between rooms through the heaters.
USF’s response did little to contain the rodents. Mouse droppings were found under beds and around one student’s utensils. Some residents even awoke to rodent traps setting off in their rooms. USF had plenty of time to resolve this issue during winter break when many students would not be on campus. And yet, they did not.
Allowing students to live in a rodent-infested space is a major health concern — if you are exposed to a rodent, you have also been exposed to about 35 diseases. To name a few, they are Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM), Rat Bite Fever (RBF), and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. All of these can be contracted by exposure to rodents’ urine, droppings, nesting materials, scratches, and bites, and present with dangerous symptoms such as fever, vomiting, headache, and muscle pain. All the diseases linked to rodents have the potential to become fatal. By virtue of living in a rodent-infested building, many of the students in Pac Wing have been exposed to these exact conditions for a prolonged period of time. It is extremely reckless of USF to let this fester in their dorms.
Dorm rooms that cost from $15,000-$18,000 per year should not be this poorly maintained.
Many residents from Pac Wing considered taking legal action under California Civil Code, section 1941.1, known as the “implied warranty of habitability,” which requires landlords to keep their property habitable, which, among other things, means that tenants are entitled to proper sanitary living conditions. The civil code applies to dorm rooms as well, which means that these students should be protected.
A lack of resolution to the rodent issue caused many residents to voluntarily vacate their rooms for different, rodent-free rooms. While many residents chose to move out of the rodent-infested dorms, they are still questioning whether USF is truly concerned for its students. A mouse infestation that has been happening for months is a blatant health violation, and allowing it to go unresolved for so long was irresponsible on USF’s part.
We strongly urge USF to take proper precautions regarding our health. It is irresponsible and immoral to let students live in dirty, rodent-infested spaces. Due to current circumstances, Pac Wing is largely empty. We urge SHaRE to take more immediate action for their future residents if an event like this occurs again. Every resident, every student, and every person deserves adequate housing with “landlords” who have their best interests in mind. SHaRE isn’t an exception.