Boston University’s bed bugs: if we don’t talk about them, they’ll go away

by nobugsonme on February 25, 2007 · 6 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in colleges, california, dorms, massachusetts, usa

The other day we mentioned bed bugs had been found in a Shelton Hall dorm at Boston University. Now an editorial, also from BU’s student paper, The Daily Free Press, argues that the students removed from their dorm rooms should not have been told by university officials to hush up about their bed bug experiences in the dorm:

Last week, two residents reported a bedbug infestation after a roommate captured one of the pests in a jar. The day before, a neighbor had revealed strange marks on his skin.

But Boston University has not confirmed the apparent outbreak. It has called the appropriate exterminators and will spray the contaminated rooms, but it should also inform other Shelton Residents — if not all students — about the risk of bedbugs.

Administrators are trying to prevent mass panic, and it makes sense for them to want to dampen the scare.

But officials told residents in the pest-inhabited rooms to not tell anyone that bedbugs were crawling in their mattresses.

Apparently officials did not want students to panic. However, the editorial’s anonymous author rightly points out that this is not a wise decision.

When neighbors learn of the infestation from their peers, the fear will be as rampant as the bedbugs themselves, and the backlash will be worse than if the university issued a statement in the first place. It will make students ask why school leaders did not want them to know, allowing for negative speculation.

Students have every right to know bedbugs may be burrowing in sheets around campus — especially those who live in Shelton.

Proper extermination procedure is to spray the rooms directly above and directly below the contaminated space because of the way bedbugs lay eggs. Some Shelton dwellers may be directly affected if they too have to pack up their belongings to prepare for spraying.

Actually, all units touching the affected unit should be thoroughly inspected and treated if there are any signs of bed bugs there. And not, to my understanding, because of how they lay eggs, but how they travel.

And the critters could put the entire BU community at risk. If the insects attach to clothing and other fabrics, they can be transported easily by unsuspecting students going to class. Students should be warned that this is a possibility.

Yes they can. The wise author ends with the statement, “it is better to spread nervous feelings than it is to spread bedbugs.”

We read a lot of articles, often from student newspapers, about bed bugs in colleges. Often the presence of bed bugs in a college dorm is only reported by the student papers, and not by local media outlets, and this is a sign that colleges are trying to hush things up. Clearly BU’s secrecy policy is a common one for universities.

The university whose approach to bed bugs has been impressive, though several dorms have been hit this year, is Stanford. Perhaps BU should take a leaf from Stanford’s book– not only does the admin there have a good PCO, who clearly knows their bed bugs, on the case, but they do what needs to be done to get rid of bed bugs. And they know that doing so involves talking about bed bugs with students and staff.

When a sighting is made, or students suspect bedbugs at Stanford, there’s a thorough inspection, and not just the affected room, but adjacent units. Students with signs of bed bugs have their rooms isolated. They’re allowed to take only clothing, washed and dried on hot and in sealed bags. Everything else stays, is inspected thoroughly by PCOs, and sealed in bags while treatment commences. In addition, Stanford has an education campaign about bed bugs, so that other students will know the signs and symptoms and also know it’s okay–make that absolutely necessary–to come forward as soon as they suspect bed bugs are in their rooms.

Yes, it’s probably a huge hassle for the students who do find bugs. But they have much less chance of passing bed bugs to classmates, fellow residents (of the rooms they’ve been moved into!), faculty and staff, and ultimately, less chance of taking Mr. Cimex Lectularius home to meet mom and dad come vacation time.

Stanford gets the big picture. I hope other colleges will look into what Stanford is doing, and design better bed bug protocols for themselves.

1 Caryn February 25, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Yeah, and especially as a BU alum, I’d love it if they started dealing with it publicly. I’m preaching to the choir here, but awareness and education goes so far in combatting widespread bedbug problems.

2 parakeets February 26, 2007 at 5:12 pm

This is another college just spitting out the ol’ “college rag spin” on bedbugs. Haven’t we seen almost the identical article before in other universities? This was a profoundly calculated public relations ploy on the part of a university to calm PARENTS down (parents pay the very expensive room and board and would pull Johnnie and Sally as soon as they heard the word “bedbugs.”) The fact that this kind of article is so prevalent nation-wide is absolute proof that colleges are terrified of the whole bedbug issue. “News” like this reminds me of the “Pravda” journalism in the former Soviet Union. Two years ago I personally saw firsthand a serious case of how the administration of a university controls the news the student newspaper prints and itt disllusioned me. (Not bedbugs, but the same type “spin” on facts so that alumni and such wouldn’t worry). I believe if the students who had bedbugs had actually written that article, it would be quite different. When writers who have bedbugs, such as Bonnie Friedman, write articles, the articles ring with truth. This article was not journalism, it was “spin.”

3 nobugsonme February 26, 2007 at 6:34 pm

This is actually from an independent student paper at BU, and it seems pretty critical of the admin’s approach, for what it’s worth.
I think the lack of truth is in that the editorial writer doesn’t know much about bed bugs. But they’re hardly praising the admin’s methods–they’re calling for students to be told about the problem.

4 jessinchicago February 26, 2007 at 9:55 pm

I’m just glad the paper allowed this student to voice his/her views- which are right on the money, if you overlook the ignorance, which actually is not all that bad when compared to that of the general public.

Yes, ‘Keets, it’s a damn shame, the whole cover up/spin job. I guess in this situation, anyway, BU is showing its mediocrity, at least at the administration level. Wouldn’t it be great if those administrators instead chose to make BU THE most informed and informative institution in America? A shame.

5 parakeets February 27, 2007 at 9:07 am

Yes, nobugs, this is better than most. I was thinking of the administration’s quotes. Students will stand up for the truth and I think college students will be a vocal ally in the war against bedbugs.

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