After a long day of studying for midterms last Tuesday night, nothing sounded better than my warm cozy bed, but as I walked into my room, I saw something peculiar on my pillow: a large black dot. As I walked closer my heart dropped as I saw tiny wings emerge upward from the blobs. There were termites on my pillow.
I later learned that many of my suitemates and people from my building had also discovered termites in their rooms. I called Environment, Health, and Safety pest control right away, but was frustrated when it took a week for them to send a representative to deal with the infestation. My suitemates and I spent the past week vacuuming up dozens of termites every hour, shaking out our sheets before sleeping in them, and even sleeping on the common room couch at times. Considering the fact that many of us spend an excessive amount of money, around $12,000, to live on campus, it is unacceptable that EH&S let the conditions get so bad that we were unable to use our rooms. EH&S needs to take more initiative when it comes to recurring pest issues to ensure that they can handle them in a timely manner moving forward.
While it is admirable that EH&S eventually sent a representative out, they need to implement stronger protocols to improve their responsiveness, as thousands of students rely on them. It isn’t just termites that are plaguing students, there have been recent reports of bedbugs in The Village at Torrey Pines lasting about two weeks. Students have been waking up with bug bites all over their body and were simply told to wait for the bugs to go away. Seeing as the EH&S offices are closed during the weekend and about 38 percent of students live on campus, the least they could do is deal with pest issues promptly, by sending out representatives to assess the situation rather than leaving students to fend for themselves, so that these issues don’t affect students ways of living.
After speaking to an EH&S pest control representative, I sympathize with EH&S to an extent. It isn’t easy to care for acres upon acres of campus. The person I spoke to explained how they often get around 60 calls a day. Given this workload, one of the main things that would likely allow EH&S to be more responsive to students is more funding from UC San Diego. This would allow the organization to hire more representatives, and in turn more people to address issues, and buy stronger pesticides, to avoid recurring issues, so that students will not have to live among pests for weeks at a time.
The current underfunding of EH&S is likely the reason why there are so many recurring pest issues on campus. Rather than dealing with the issue from the root, EH&S has simply been putting a Band-Aid over the wound. In turn, pests keep returning to haunt students year after year. It’s clear that there’s always going to be a bug or two roaming around, but large-scale infestations are a different story altogether.
As of this past March, San Diego county was ranked 11th out of 50 of America’s biggest cities for termites, so it seems as though the termite issue on campus is predictable. Infestations occur on campus every October due to the extreme heat, according to EH&S representatives. If they had the funding to tent the buildings that regularly get termites during the summer, then they would avoid displacing students during the school year and prevent the panic and disgust that come along with a termite infestation. Termites are technically harmless, as they don’t bite or poison humans, but students should not have to live with termites in rooms that they have paid thousands of dollars for, not to mention deal with the anxiety that comes along with them.
The blame for the slow responsiveness of EH&S pest control does not rest on the shoulders of the representatives, they have been helpful and are just doing their jobs. Rather, it likely rests on UCSD as an institution. UCSD clearly is not providing the EH&S pest control department with sufficient funding to keep pest related issues on campus under control.
Graphic courtesy of Geena L. Roberts.