Bedbugs invade Gladden dorm, students displaced

Think about how peaceful it is to wake up in your own room. Now imagine your best friend shattering that state when he says you must move out – your room is infested with bedbugs.

Although this may sound like a horror story, it is in fact a sad reality to three suitemates in Gladden, who discovered a colony of bedbugs in their suite at the beginning of this school year.

The problem came to light on Sept. 2, when one of the students, Adam Kollender ’05 went to make his bed on his first night back on campus. He discovered four dead bedbugs on a bedspread that the College had provided.

When Security told Kollender that there was nothing that could be done, he left the room for the night. He returned in the morning to find a bug crawling across his desk and went to speak with Buildings & Grounds (B&G).

There, Kollender said the response was “basically. . . ‘they’re back.’”

Kollender was informed that bedbugs were discovered in the room in Gladden last spring as the old residents were moving out. According to Irene Addison, Associate Vice President for Facilities and Auxiliary Services, the College hired a local extermination company with whom B&G worked to eliminate the bugs. The company fumigated the room and replaced the carpeting. B&G then left the room empty over the summer and monitored it to make sure the bedbugs did not reappear.

However, bedbugs can remain dormant for up to a year. As Addison explained, bedbugs can burrow under a wall covering or into small cracks and crevices where they are quite hard to find. Bedbugs tend only to surface when attracted to a food source: the human body.

Despite these concerns, B&G believed the problem to be solved and did not alert the students who picked into the suite. Addison said that she didn’t want to cause “unnecessary alarm.” She said that the College never would have let the students move in with evidence of bedbugs.

Kollender said he was shocked at what he believes to be “gross negligence on the school’s part.” When B&G ordered him to move out of the room, he said he found “no less than 18 bedbugs out . . . on my desk, bookshelf, bureau, drawers” while packing up his things.

“At least five of them were alive,” he said. He said that he finds it extremely difficult to understand how the College found no evidence of these bugs during the summer.

The rooms of Kollender and Paul Francis ’05, who also discovered a live bedbug in his room, have since been stripped to their original construction and have undergone extensive fumigation. Their third suitemate, Adam Zamora ’05, was also asked to move out as a precautionary measure, even though no bedbugs were actually found in his room. All the furniture has been thrown away, the wall guard and wood fittings have been torn down, and the carpets have been ripped up.

Addison explained that B&G has also installed sticky blue boxes, which indicate the presence of bedbugs, in surrounding rooms to monitor the situation. The blue boxes were also placed with the student’s infected belongings in storage. Kollender points out, however, that the blue boxes have no attraction device for the bedbugs and without a human body, it is highly unlikely that the bedbugs will materialize. Kollender adds that there is also a lack in the number of blue boxes available.

And now, the bedbugs are spreading. Addison explained that bedbug eggs have an incubation period of 30 days. At the beginning of this week, bugs appeared in the room of another Gladden resident. The student has since moved out and the room is undergoing the same treatment that occurred in the other rooms.

Addison does want to tell students not to panic. “It’s absolutely appalling to think of being bitten at night,” she said. “But there is no health danger.” In fact, some people are not even able to feel the bite of a bedbug.

There may be no health danger, but Zamora and Kollender are thoroughly disappointed with the impact the bedbugs are having on their junior year. The three suitemates were all forced to separate and move to new rooms within the Greylock Quad.

“I’ve lost touch with my best friends as a result of this,” said Kollender. “School is so hectic as is, sometimes room proximity is the only measure of friendship you have during the week – and that’s been lost.”

The students’ personal belongings are quarantined in storage, even including Kollender’s laptop. And there’s no indication of when the students will be able to move back.

“For all we know they’re going to have to knock down Gladden and napalm the place,” Zamora said. “The bugs just won’t die.”