Upon the discovery of a bedbug in the corner of their room, senior Matt Tanzosh, sophomore Ariel Leal and their two roommates were forced to bag their clothing and leave their 14th floor quad dorm in Constitution Hall on Tuesday, April 4 around 3 a.m.
Tanzosh felt itchy for a short period of time before discovering and killing the bedbug, and calling Hofstra’s Department of Public Safety shortly thereafter. Later, a specialist arrived and informed the residents that exterminators would be there to spray the room the following day.
The students were moved to an “emergency” empty suite in Colonial Square’s Williamsburg House, with an unclear time frame of when they would be allowed to return. This was just one of a handful of ambiguous answers the roommates were given by the university during this process.
“A big issue was the fact that everything was so vague,” Leal said. “There were a lot of questions we were asking each other as we were packing.”
After contacting Public Safety, Facilities and Operations was notified as well as Resident Director of Constitution Hall Samuel Baah. The room was inspected, and the residents were instructed to put a change of clothes in a dryer to bring to Colonial Square with them. As for the rest of their clothing and bedding items, an email sent from Residential Life asked them to bag those items and leave them in the infected room.
The four students were allowed back into their room on Friday, April 7.
Despite being told that they were supposed to have their clothing and bedding materials returned by Saturday from the off-campus company dealing with the situation, they received their possessions Monday at 1 p.m., two days later than expected. For a total of six days, the residents could not access any of these belongings.
It was not until after the clothing was bagged up that the students were told by Baah that they themselves would be in charge of cleaning the clothing during the extermination process.
“Suggesting that we take up the entire [laundry room], spreading the bedbugs by opening these bags in the laundry room is very dangerous,” Tanzosh said.
The roommates would have been left to handle the clothing on their own if it was not for their resident director, Baah, who they felt went out of his way to help handle the situation by sifting through unclear directions after being seemingly unprepared.
After originally being instructed to take care of their own clothing, Leal said Baah called a cleaning company to handle the issue. He also supplied pillows, sheets and kept the residents updated on what was happening in their room.
Two hours after initially reporting the incident, the residents were working with Baah to resolve the situation. “The people on their end were very helpful,” Tanzosh said.
Leal says that the exterminators seem to have handled the room effectively, but the general consensus among the roommates was that there was a lack of communication and protocol by the university.
“It’s not the type of thing to be handled so lightly,” Leal said.
Despite being back in their room within three days of the incident occurring, the ambiguity and confusion of the instructions given by various Residence Life and Public Safety officials caused uncertainty in the time in between.
Tanzosh says they were only given “rough estimates” for how long they would be out of their room, and that miscommunication within and between departments led to a lot of redirecting in order to find answers to their questions.
In terms of protocol, beyond clothing and bedding, Tanzosh said the roommates were given no instructions on how to handle other items like books and records that could have also harbored the bugs.
“Beyond Res Life, who did the best they could, anyone that we spoke to didn’t seem to know a lot about the subject,” Tanzosh said.
Karen O’Callaghan, the director of Public Safety, said they received a report, but that the details of the call could not be regenerated. “When the report was received, we notified the respective Resident Director and [Hofstra’s Facilities and Operations].” Infestations and exterminations, O’Callaghan explained, are not in Public Safety’s jurisdiction. “It’s not a report we’d typically generate.”
Unable to comment on the details of the case due to privacy liabilities, Dom Lavin, the director of Campus Operations, explained the protocol in such scenarios.
“We have an exterminating company that the university contracts with. We have 24/7 response times. Generally, we’ll get there within two hours of us calling them. They’ll work with one of our managers. We also work with the Residence Life staff to make sure that we give entry into the space or spaces in order to do our inspections. We inspect, and then if need be, we treat,” Lavin said.
The campus custodial staff does a thorough cleaning every summer. However, during the semester, they are not permitted access to student rooms unless a report is made. Students in suite-style dorms are expected to maintain cleanliness within their own rooms and bathrooms, whereas bathrooms in the high-rises are cleaned five times a week by custodial staff.
Tanzosh said, “If we weren’t being accountable about this, there are no safeguards to prevent people from saying ‘Well, you know, screw it.’”