Facilities Fail: Fordham Does Little for Flea-Infested Apartment


Published: September 24, 2009

“Infestation” is not a word anyone likes to hear, especially when used in reference to a person’s living space. However, when my suitemate and I saw a tiny, crawly thing on my leg one fateful Saturday night, put together with the red, menacing bites she had accumulated throughout the course of the preceding week, we swallowed our pride and reported it to facilities: our apartment was infested.

With what, we weren’t sure, but we knew that there was something slowly taking over our suite—something sinister and elusive, but definitely real. After taking our terror to the powers that be in McMahon Hall, faithful that they’d rescue us from our paranoia-inducing plight, it became clear that Fordham was not as prepared to face the facts as were.

Fleas are not easy to identify without an itchy house pet around. In fact, it’s hard to tell them from bed bugs in the early stages. They’re miniscule to the point of near invisibility, they hide out in rugs and furniture, and they bite. Hard. Naturally, my suitemates and I were upset and preparing ourselves for the worst. We mistakenly assumed that Fordham, potentially at risk for a McMahon-wide infestation, would be similarly on alert. To add insult to injury, Fordham facilities initially did nothing to eliminate a problem for which they may have even been responsible. It’s quite possible that the bugs were already in the apartment when we moved in; the suite was filthy when we arrived. Plus, as it turns out, ours is not the only apartment that is currently battling fleas.

Fordham does not pay anyone from facilities to be on call on the weekends. While this was an annoyance, we did what we could until Monday morning, when we hoped we’d get some sort of assistance. We neglected our homework, vacuumed incessantly, washed ALL of our clothes and spent our own money (for which we wouldn’t be compensated) on a steamer and pesticide spray, scratching at new bites all the while. When Monday morning finally rolled around, we expected absolution by extermination, or at least a little bit of hope. Instead, we got a couple of flimsy roach traps from facilities. It seemed like a joke—for $13,000 a year, this is what we get? A piece of sticky paper? Good one, Fordham! You really had us going.

At this point, we were fairly certain that our suite’s devilish inhabitants were fleas because we’d seen them, both in our beds and on our bodies. One of us already had over 30 bites, and none of us could go anywhere without that crawling feeling of bug-paranoia.  We were behind in our schoolwork, losing sleep and probably losing our minds, as well.

It’s illegal in New York City to exterminate without proof of the bugs’ species, so the problem wasn’t that facilities didn’t fumigate immediately. The issue, exceedingly clear to us but impossible to get across to any Fordham employee, was that the roach traps were never going to catch any fleas because, astonishingly, types of bugs that feed on different things aren’t necessarily attracted to the same scents. Thus, we’d never have proof of our unwelcome guests, who would continue to multiply while we waited in vain for facilities to come around. We were finally able to trap some of the pests and secure an extermination, but only because we caught them latching onto my suitemate’s foot.

This was not the only inefficiency, but all of the roadblocks we encountered had one common denominator: Fordham bureaucracy. Between facilities snubbing our pleas for real help, a health center that didn’t seem to even know what a bug bite was, and ResLife, who just didn’t really know what to do, it was almost impossible to make any headway at all. McMahon Hall is fortunate that we didn’t have bed bugs, which can crawl through ceilings and walls; in the time it took facilities to even respond to our initial report, the entire building could have been at risk—not just for pesky bites, but also for the diseases that insects can carry. Something tells me that this kind of situation would call for more than a couple of roach traps, so why not just eliminate the problem early?

The answer is simple: Fordham doesn’t want to acknowledge a problem at all. According to numerous employees, McMahon has never had fleas or bed bugs, although the Observer reported on a likely bed bug infestation just last year. An extermination in the residence hall is an implicit admission that Fordham is not invincible. To handle our situation is to admit that, despite the 24-hour security, McMahon Hall gets nasty visitors sometimes. Perhaps it would behoove Fordham to remember that, while impressing parents of prospective students may seem more advantageous than keeping current students safe, we’ll be alumni someday. If the school wants us to give anything back in the future, it should at least let us have the assistance we’re paying for now.

Over a week of blood sucking and egg-laying later, the fleas may or may not still be at large. After a few angry parent phone calls, which are apparently what it takes to get any reaction out of facilities at all, we were given new furniture—new homes for the countless hatchlings that had yet to be exterminated from the carpet. Though there was finally an extermination, the bites are still popping up. My suitemate’s 30 bites are now near 50, and we’re all still scrambling to catch up on our studies.  But at least we’ve learned one lesson: if you’re waiting on Fordham facilities to solve your bug problem, call your own exterminator.