Welcome Center employees are speaking out against a months-long rat infestation with an online petition launched Thursday. Wayne State Facilities Planning and Management sent an email to the campus community on Saturday announcing an immediate closure for "maintenance" through Nov. 28.
It is unknown if the "maintenance" closure is related to the rat sightings. FPM could not be immediately reached for comment Saturday.
Created by Wayne State’s AAUP-AFT Local 6075 and sent to all Welcome Center employees on Wednesday, the petition has gained more than 30 signatures as of Friday afternoon, according to an anonymous Welcome Center employee.
The infestation was presumably caused by the construction directly outside the building, said the employee.
“Not to throw anyone under the bus, but our higher administrators have been incredibly passive in addressing said issues,” they said.
The petition includes a list of five locations where rat droppings were spotted on Tuesday and includes photographs.
After bringing the situation to WSU’s attention, the anonymous employee said they were told by the administration: “the building will be ‘thoroughly cleaned’ for the President’s watch party later this month.”
The petition states Welcome Center employees have been aware of the rats since September.
“During this time, students, staff, and guests have encountered rats roaming various areas of the first floor of the Welcome Center,” according to the petition.
Vice President of Communications Matt Lockwood said he was made aware of the issue on Thursday, while FPM has been actively fighting the rat problem and believe they have it solved.
“Animal monitoring stations have been put in the building and no activity has been detected for a few days,” Lockwood said. “At this point, we believe that remediation efforts have been successful, however, we will continue to actively monitor the situation.”
According to the petition, at least four work orders have been filed with FPM since September.
“We know that several large rats have been caught, but smaller rats like the ones pictured in this letter remain inside the building…additionally, on a quick scan of the first floor, rat-dropping piles can be found in broad daylight,” according to the petition.
The petition states that employees have concerns about contracting Hantavirus, which is transmitted through direct contact or inhalation of dried rat saliva, droppings or urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is a risk of death (with Hantavirus),” said the anonymous employee. “There is a blatant disregard for the health of our employees, especially since they have been voicing their concerns for over a month.”
In order to fight the rat infestation, Lockwood said FPM eliminated the majority of the rats through exterior remedies.
“Planters outside of the building that were housing the rats have been treated and treatment will continue for the next three weeks,” Lockwood said. “Dirt has been removed from the planters and a rat barrier has been placed at the base of the planters and along the building foundation. These planters are now topped off with stone rather than dirt.”
The employee said new rat droppings were spotted on Friday and they were able to photograph a rat on the main floor Friday evening at 6:01 p.m.
“No student should have to see a rat in a student-oriented, service-providing building at Wayne State University,” said the anonymous employee.
Amelia Benavides-Colón is the editor-in-chief for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo provided by Hannah Sexton, graphic designer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.