Residents in six Terrace apartment units and two campus houses have reported mice sightings, long-term delays in maintenance service, ineffective traps and a case of E. coli this academic year.
Steve Dowell, manager of college facilities staff, said that two Terrace buildings have had a history of mice problems, but his office tries to respond as quickly as possible. The Terrace apartments are located on the north side of College Avenue, between Blanchard and President Sts east of Wheaton’s campus.
Dowell said there were seven reports of mice around campus last year, including four at Terrace. This year, there have been eight reports of mice on campus, with six at Terrace.
The city of Chicago, about 25 miles from Wheaton, has been ranked the “rat capital” of the U.S. for eight years in a row, as of October. On Wheaton’s campus, it is normal for there to be a few reports of rodents in campus apartments and houses every year, but Terrace has been hit more than usual in recent months.
“Our normal routine is to drop off snap traps with instructions on the day or day after we receive the work order,” said Justin Heth, dean of Residence Life, in an email to the Record. “We then have a carpenter come by the apartment within a few days to close up any visible entry points in the apartment.”
Most of the mice appeared in single sightings around Thanksgiving break, but Audrey Coyle, a senior majoring in elementary education, says that an exterminator was not sent to her house, located on Irving Ave. near the campus tennis court, until a month later, during Christmas break. Like other residents who found mice, Coyle and her housemates bought their own traps while waiting for a response from facilities. They say they caught six mice in total.
Even after facilities responded, residents in campus houses and Terrace apartments reported issues with the traps and steel wool they received to combat the rodents.
“[Facilities] came right before Christmas break, and they said they dropped off some traps, but we knew they were the kind that didn’t work very well,” said Kate Tang, a junior business and economics major, who lives in Terrace. “We went out and bought our own.”
Tang also brought back steel wool from her home in Ann Arbor after Thanksgiving break, so facilities staff could repair the air vent in the apartment, which had a hole where mice were entering, sooner. Regardless, facilities staff visited the apartment three times before the hole was repaired because of supply chain issues.
“It was also emotionally tough to wake up every morning and have multiple dead mice to deal with,” Tang said.
Students in one apartment said they found mouse droppings in around $100 worth of food, but threw it away and forgot about it until one resident became very ill and was later diagnosed with E. coli. The resident said her doctor attributed the illness to the mice.
Heth said in an email to The Record that he has not heard from students or parents about any persisting mice situations after intervention from facilities staff, but encouraged students to reach out to his office if they discover evidence of mice.