Students are calling on Wayne State administrators to take action after multiple sightings of cockroaches in both residence halls and Towers Café.
Sophomore nutrition and food science major Jackson Ezell said he has seen cockroaches in Towers Café on two separate occasions and most recently, on Oct. 7, one large cockroach on the sixth floor of Ghafari Residence Hall.
“My immediate emotions toward the situation were feelings of disgust and anger,” he said. “I felt scared to be living and eating at Wayne State. The fact that these bugs are in our cafeteria means there’s a chance I am eating food that a cockroach could have touched or crawled on. Also, they are in our residence halls. This is where I sleep and relax. I do not want to worry about what may be in my room when I’m not watching or paying attention.”
Ezell’s roommate Evan Marchionda, a sophomore secondary education major, said he also feels uneasy about the cockroaches after finding a cockroach two doors down from his room in Ghafari, seeing a Snapchat video sent to his friends of a cockroach crawling on the floor of Towers Café and hearing about sightings in Old Main.
“There was one cockroach that was about two inches long,” Marchionda said. “I am appalled that I pay thousands of dollars for room and board and have to live and eat with cockroaches.”
Jeanine Bessette, director of Housing and Residential Life, said the cockroaches are not a health issue or a sanitation issue because urban universities typically battle local pests.
However, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing, cockroaches pose several health risks: they are antigens to asthma sufferers, they can carry disease-causing germs, often leave behind odors and cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illness.
“Any home with food or moisture can have cockroaches,” NCHH states. “Apartment buildings often have the worst infestations…For most apartment buildings, the landlord must take a building-wide approach to controlling these pests. Moreover, a coordinated effort by the landlord and all tenants is required to eliminate cockroaches.”
Marchionda said Housing has responded very poorly to the situation,
“To my knowledge, they have not notified students at all,” he said. “I cannot say for certain, but I would think that it’s against health code regulations to continue to serve food while having cockroaches.”
“The fact that I have been hearing about the cockroaches being in completely separate buildings speaks to the uncleanliness of Wayne State as a whole,” Marchionda said. “I think that Wayne State needs to have and exterminator come in as soon as possible.”
Bessette said when pests are reported, Ridder Pest Control LLC is brought in to evaluate and treat the space. Additionally, she said all treatments are done by state of Michigan-licensed professionals who use legally approved chemicals and treatments.
“Residents should report any sightings of pests to the front desk in their residence hall in order to get the treatment process started,” Bessette said. “Each building in our housing system is examined on a quarterly basis. In addition, we do health and safety inspections to ensure that rooms are clean, that food is stored properly and that trash is removed regularly. Residents do not need to leave the building or their room if pests are found. The treatment is done while residents still occupy the space.”
Ezell said he wants to see both Housing and Dining Services seriously address the problem before it becomes too big.
“How we combat the issue can't remain as if it were a small scale issue,” he said. “The problem is growing and that method can’t be expected to work moving forward. Since I have seen multiple large and small cockroaches, to me this means they are expanding in numbers.”
Bessette said residents who spot any cockroaches in any spaces are advised to report the pests immediately, so the concern may be treated in a timely manner.
“Food safety is a top priority for the dining staff and residents can be assured that the food that is served is safe to eat,” Bessette said. “As in rooms in the residence hall, we will safely treat any pests that are found in the dining hall.”
Sophomore jazz studies major Jonathon Muir-Cotton said he has seen cockroaches in the hallway of Ghafari as well as in Old Main while practicing his instrument.
“I have been aware for a while, but I just didn’t think I would see them,” he said. “Honestly, I hate roaches, they make my skin crawl so I just left as quickly as possible.”
Muir-Cotton said he hasn’t come forward to administration because he doesn’t expect anyone to do anything about it.
“The one thing that I have learned is that unless it’s money that you owe the school, Wayne State does nothing and if they do something, it takes a long time,” he said. “Whenever you call the school you get transferred to ten different people and then you still don’t get your problem fixed. The only way to get Wayne State to fix the issues or even pay attention to the issue is to call the news.”
At a town hall on Oct. 18, hosted by the Residence Hall Association, Ezell brought his concerns to a panel consisting of Bessette, Towers Residential Suites Community Director Eric Ruelle, Supervisor of Housing for Maintenance Patrick Erne, Housing Representative Rob Jacobs and Director of Auxiliary Facilities Gerald R. Tilson.
“I guess it’s a little different when you hear about them and you’re like, ‘oh, that’s kind of gross’, but, when you actually see them it’s like a million times worse,” Ezell said. “Is there any kind of plan to get rid of these or?”
A commotion erupted in the room upon mention of cockroaches and Tilson waited until the audience settled before responding.
“How far do you want me to go on this one?” Tilson said. “I spend a quarter of a million dollars a year killing bugs.”
Ezell said these sightings were particularly concerning because as far as he knew, no one reported cockroaches last year.
Tilson explained that the increase in construction has led to an increase in pests.
“The more construction we do, the more upset they get and the more come out,” Tilson said. “I don’t want to get anyone freaked out and I might get in trouble for saying this, but there isn’t a building on the face of the earth that doesn’t have cockroaches in it, not one.”
Tilson said the reported sightings have all mostly been dead cockroaches which he explained is a “good” thing.
“Because that means that the stuff they are using is working, but just let us know because we have people on campus every day that go through all of our buildings and do this,” he said.
Tilson asked for everyone to help by simply being considerate with trash.
“Everybody should help us out by keeping things clean,” Tilson said. “Keep things in air-tight containers because if they don’t have anything to eat, they’ll go elsewhere. Plus, the fact that it’s starting to get cold. They don’t like the cold just like us so they’ll start to come in.”
Tilson stressed that if you are to report a sighting, do not email.
“Put in a work order,” he said. “That’s the best thing you can do. We tell them what room it was and the responding pest control guy goes right there and takes care of it.”
However, Tilson said there is no sanitizing process after these pests are disposed.
“We don’t need to do that. They’re no dirtier than any bug really. They clean up, whoever does the killing of them, cleans them up and uses a drain– flushes them,” Tiller said. ”It’s a continuous fight and it’s a lot better than it was about four years ago.”