They didn’t just stop in Avery.
Last week, the Barnard Quad community was rocked with some shocking news after our return from break: Sulzberger Hall had been infested with bed bugs. Or, at least one room has been. Students living in a triple on the eighth floor of Sulz found the bugs in one of their beds the night after they returned from break, leading to a very frustrating experience with Residential Life. Exterminators were entering their room left and right, they had to completely wash or throw out all of their belongings, and they had to leave their dorm for a temporary stay in a hotel while their room was fumigated. We at Bwog were able to secure an interview with these unlucky roommates, who shall remain nameless, our conversation ranging from the beginning to (hopefully) end of this nightmare situation. Our questions and their answers are below.
Starting from the beginning, when did you realize you had bed bugs?
Roommate 1: It was 1 am and it was last Tuesday [January 23], and our other roommate found a bug and was like, “Is this a bed bug?”
Roommate 2: And that night, our roommate washed, like, everything. She washed all her sheets, put blankets in bags, and stuff like that. The next day in the morning she called Facilities or ResLife or something and was like, “Hey I think we have bed bugs.” And they were like, “Okay, we’re gonna send an exterminator later that day, and if you have a physical bed bug you should capture it and show it to us.”
Roommate 1: And we knew where they were, they were in one of our bags. But Reslife did not tell us when the exterminator was coming, or a timeframe and we were like, “Well, it’s the first day of class and none of us can miss our classes.” So, they didn’t tell us when they were gonna come and they told us this right in the morning and the guy came after so we didn’t have time to get the bed bug.
Roommate 2: None of us were there, so we got an email that the exterminator found no evidence of bed bugs but he left glue traps… which were useless.
Roommate 1: But then we came back to our room and all our beds were torn apart.
Roommate 2: So we were like wow this was really thorough!
Roommate 1: But clearly it wasn’t.
Roommate 2: So, for like five hours we assumed we were safe. We were like, “OMG, we’re so safe, it’s crazy.”
Roommate 1: But then our roommate found another one and then we went through the bags and found the specimen.
Roommate 2: Oh yeah, we put trash bags on as clothing and then we went through the bags, found some specimens, and put them in plastic bags.
When was this all happening? What is the timeline?
Roommate 1: All of that happened during Tuesday day.
Roommate 2: So Wednesday… we had found the specimen but we were like, “Okay those are just the dead ones, we still might be safe.” Then I think sometime Wednesday day our roommate found that they were nesting in her bulletin board above her bed. There were eggs… it was nasty. So we covered everything in plastic and trash bags.
Roommate 1: This is when we started calling Reslife and it was after 5 pm on Wednesday so they told us they couldn’t get an exterminator in there until Thursday morning. So, this is when we started getting kind of mad and called all of our parents and were like, “They’re not doing anything to help us with this,” because they did not offer us a place to stay, they wouldn’t bring us trash bags, the people on the phone were being kind of rude…
Roommate 2: Which, it’s kind of understandable because everyone gets stressed out when they hear “bed bugs” and nobody wants to deal with that, but it would have been nice to feel like somebody cared and believed us.
What did you do? Did you have to stay the night in your infested room?
Roommate 1: Our roommate was freaking out because she had to sleep in the bed that was next to the nest. So we taped up her whole board, she took everything off of her bed, we put her pillows in these plastic bags.
Roommate 2: She slept wrapped in plastic, and I had to be like, “Hey girl maybe don’t put that so close to your head!” She was scared, obviously, because they were right next to her head. So, the next day Reslife told us an exterminator was going to come sometime Thursday afternoon. So the exterminator comes sometime around 2 pm, takes one look at the specimen we’ve collected, and he’s like, “Yeah, that’s bed bugs.”
What happened on the day of the extermination?
Roommate 1: And then they’re like, “We can have someone in to exterminate at 6 pm today,” but they tell us we have to have all of our clothing bagged, preferably we have all of our clothes washed before the extermination, we have to have all of our personal belongings bagged, there can be no clutter, we had to take all of our decorations off the wall.
Roommate 2: Everything out of drawers, literally every single thing we owned had to be in a plastic bag.
Roommate 1: And we still had classes! Like, I had a job interview! So when they were like, “We can have an exterminator in at six,” we were like, “That isn’t going to work—like physically that cannot happen. So we spend, from 2 to 10 pm, when we aren’t in class or in an interview, we are bagging and washing our stuff.
Roommate 2: And ResLife wouldn’t close down the laundry room, which I don’t think is an unreasonable request. And I also don’t think people would want to wash their clothes in a room that had bed bugs in it. So we just put a sign on the door letting people know the situation.
Roommate 1: Yeah, we went down to housing to try and talk to them about it and they just shut us down. So then that night, we were finishing packing at six, and we run out of plastic bags so we call CARES because everything else is closed and they tell us they will get in contact with Facilities and, “We will get stuff to you.” So it’s seven, and we continue bagging while we can and [Roommate 2] goes and gets us more bags.
Roommate 2: While I was getting plastic bags someone called me and was like, “Hey, how’s it going, did you get your plastic bags from Facilities?” and I was like, “No…” and they were like, “I’m sorry about that,” and I was like “Yeah, I just feel like there’s a lot of bureaucracy going on and I don’t know what else to do.”
Roommate 1: So I call CARES again and tell them nobody has come to help, and he says, “Okay, we’ll try and get someone to do whatever, I don’t know what else to do so you can email Facilities.” And I was like, okay.
At this point, Roommate 1 begins reading out their email correspondence with facilities. The subject line is: “Help Us!!”
Roommate 1: And I say: “Hello, I am in Sulz dealing with the bed bugs, and we need Facilities to bring us more clear plastic bags so that we can leave and go to our hotel for the night. We have been packing for six hours and we want to leave… We understand you are busy but we are frustrated with the situation.” This was at 8 pm. Then he sends back: “Good evening. We will deliver bags shortly.” And I’m like, alright, and that was around 30 minutes after we sent the first email. Then, an hour later, they still haven’t come. No response. So [Roommate 2] comes back with the plastic bags, we pack everything up, it’s like 10 pm at this point, and I email them and say, “Nobody ever came to help us, we bought our own bags.”
Roommate 2: Which I spent 50 dollars on, by the way.
Roommate 1: And then the next day, he was like, “We left a box at the front door.” At, like, 8 am the next day. And that was not helpful.
Roommate 2: And that’s another thing, they expected us to stay in that room that night. They never offered us housing or told us we should stay somewhere else. I get that there are no open rooms here, but they could have helped with a hotel.
Did you end up staying in a hotel that night?
Roommate 2: We paid for the hotel, but they were kind enough to give us the discount that would have been given to Columbia because Columbia has an account there. So we got basically 50% off which was so kind of them.
Roommate 1: The hotel was amazing.
Roommate 2: We know the housing thing is a complicated situation because they don’t want the bed bugs to spread, but we had spent all day ensuring that what we brought to the hotel was not going to be infested. Everything we brought to the hotel was washed, was dried on high heat, and there was no way we were going to spend another night in an infested room.
Roommate 1: Everything was also bagged, our pillows, our blankets, so we would just have been sleeping on the cold, hard, mattresses.
Were you able to come back the next day?
Roommate 1: We came back the next day around 8 to 10 am; they had fumigated at 10 am.
Roommate 2: We did decide to stay another night in the hotel due to the smell… the room still smells horrible, it smells like poison from the extermination.
And have you been able to fully move back in and put your stuff back up?
Roommate 1: We have essentials out and technically we are allowed to unpack our clothes that have been washed.
Roommate 2: Yeah so I spent from 11:30 am until 5:30 pm on the day we got back washing clothes.
Roommate 1: We also had to throw away hundreds of dollars of stuff which we can’t really replace.
Roommate 2: Because I can’t necessarily wash my memory foam mattress topper. We also still have the same blue mattresses. The board that was infested also was not thrown away, it was just fumigated and taken down.
Where do you think the bugs came from? Do you think you had them before break?
Roommate 1: We’re 90% sure our roommate got them from Avery because that’s where she studied during finals week.
Roommate 2: And the only reason people here know we have bed bugs is because we took it upon ourselves to tell them since the University wouldn’t to “respect our privacy.” I feel like this should have been communicated by someone other than us since it is a public health issue.
The trio will be going through two more extermination/fumigation processes in the next week to ensure that their room is fully bed bug free. Until they are confirmed to be gone, if you are a member of the Quad, please make sure to check your own dorm for these nasty little inhabitants and take the necessary precautions.
Real, unedited photo of the Quad via Author