Jose Pineda Acevedo
After a long year-and-a-half of the world completely shutting down in the wake of the coronavirus, we are slowly incorporating ourselves back to the previous life we left behind: one where Zoom calls are no longer the norm for face-to-face interactions, and being cooped up in our homes without the ability to freely get out and live our normal lives is no longer mandated. However, such an opportunity doesn’t come without its own problems. Since the start of the 2021 Fall semester, there have been complaints by students of Whittier’s apparent “bug problem” that has been plaguing most of the on-campus and residential experiences. Despite these apparent and concerning rumors, are the bugs a real problem for life at Whittier?
Although it is true that Whittier College isn’t as large as the major UC’s, its surrounding environment and campus structure is still an inviting place for students, faculty, and the many animals and insects that provide and produce a rich, lively atmosphere. Along with the occasional prancing squirrels or the delightful singing of birds — especially the red-crowned parrots that are abundant on campus and in Uptown — the school is no stranger to the number of bugs that traverse the entire campus landscape. While the abundance of bugs would seemingly be a cause for concern for those who have been complaining, it seems as if this isn’t as much of a universal problem as it is mostly made out to be.
Geo Santos-Cantu, a Residential Advisor for Stauffer Hall, has noted the lack of bug-related activity and problems specifically in Stauffer. “Harris and Turner have bad ants, and some cockroaches . . . but, so far, I haven’t really seen anything in [Stauffer],” he said. “I know that there are mosquitoes out here. I don’t know if it’s an L.A. thing or what, but the mosquitos suck.” When asked about what steps should be taken to prevent any future insect outbreaks, he states that “the exterminator should come and take care of it, and it’s kind of hard too ‘cause people are kinda messy, and spill food. It’s definitely hard, especially when you have a lot of individuals living on campus and are carefree, leaving crumbs everywhere and making it easier [for an insect outbreak] to spread.”
Just north of Stauffer Hall sits Ball Hall, housing about 90 students — one of them being Residential Advisor Nailah Beyene-Martin. She, just like Santos-Cantu, has noted the lack of bug activity in her residence hall despite the many complaints being reported. “I haven’t really seen that many, to be honest,” said Beyene-Martin. “I know that I saw one when I was moving in on the first week, but that was just because students hadn’t been on campus, and they were doing extermination . . . students weren’t here for a year-and-a-half; what do you expect out of the buildings?” When asked about what should be done to prevent any potential insect outbreaks, she emphasized that “people should go to their R.A.’s and let them know, and then let facilities and grounds handle the rest . . . we should make sure that people who are running things on campus know that the students are having a problem, either in their rooms or in their buildings, and letting someone know so that it can get handled.”
Kat Garrison, another R.A. from Ball Hall, was willing to make a statement on the topic. She commented on the condition of school facilities, stating that “the facilities are kind of run down, but it’s a school — I don’t blame them, they’re a nonprofit. They don’t have the money to renovate the school as readily as possible, so they have to do it little by little.” When asked about her thoughts on how the bugs affect campus and residential life, she makes a few interesting points: “It hasn’t really been that much of an issue. The ants have, but, when it rains, the ants are going to come out; when it’s super hot, the ants are going to be a problem no matter what. The ants are just doing their thing!” She, along with Beyene-Martin, have mentioned a recent problem with water bugs in the pipelines of Ball Hall, but have reassured me that the school had been actively fighting against a potential outbreak by exterminating said (and I’ll say it, grotesque) bugs. “There’s not really much you can do except kill them, and the school has been trying to get rid of the bugs. People are passing around ant spray, if you ask an R.A., most likely that works.”
If Stauffer Hall, one of the biggest residential halls on-campus that suits about 210 students, and Ball Hall contains little to no bug-related incidents occurring within its walls according to an official R.A., then what’s happening? Why are there widespread rumors and complaints about bugs on campus when there is little to no activity being done or incidents being reported to R.A.’s? Personally, I’m not inclined to believe that the bug problem on campus is merely a widespread problem, but more-so an individual problem.
Being a first-year college student with roughly two months of experience going to school here as of writing this article, I’ve noticed many assets that could lead one to perceive that the bug issue on campus is a lot broader than it seems. For starters, Harris Hall (my accommodated residence hall) has seen its fair share of bugs swamping the area: from mosquitos to ants to the occasional cockroach, these bugs are mostly prevalent during very hot weather and have become the typical annoyance for Harris Hall residents. No wonder rarely anyone resides in Harris during the day. I’m particularly thankful that none of these bugs have even come close to entering my room.
In one instance, a first-year student, who requested their identity to be anonymous, recalled a time within the second week of school in regards to their experience with bugs on campus. According to him, “On my way back from the cafeteria — I was bringing food back to talk with friends while in my room — a giant cicada killer hopped on my jacket and I wasn’t aware of it, I brought it back to my room. As I took my jacket off to drop it on my bed, the giant bug fell off. It freaked me out, and I tried to kill it. It ran behind a suitcase in one of my closet compartments and I freaked out, kicked the suitcase across the room in an attempt to make it come out so I could kill it. When I killed it, its guts, disturbingly, were everywhere.” For a large bug that can become the size of one’s middle finger, I wouldn’t want to get anywhere near close to something like that, nor have an experience with a bug as personal as theirs.
Another first-year student, who had also requested their identity to be anonymous, agreed to share their experience. According to them, “One thing that I have noticed is the amount of ants. Normally, I wouldn’t call this a huge deal because ants are everywhere, and, naturally, they would be here, too. There are sometimes literal trails of ants leading out of trash cans.” They also said that, “I think this probably won’t be as much of a problem when it becomes cooler, but maybe the trash cans should be sprayed with Raid or some sort of anti-bug spray.”
A fourth-year student, who lives in Turner Hall and wished to remain anonymous, said, “With regard to the bugs in Turner, it’s been varied in that there have been times where I see bugs frequently, but there are periods — maybe a few weeks — where I don’t.” This student had very few bugs in their room, but had a bad experience with ants crawling up their walls and hanging around their trash cans. There were also spiders in the corner of their room, but they did not notice any in the common areas. Admittedly, they said, they do not spend much time there, but they did not see any in passing glances. As far as the extermination of the bugs, this student said, “I think it’s worked. If I see more bugs, then obviously not, but, in recent weeks, it’s been better.”
So, what does this all mean? Does this mean people should be banding together in large clusters of demanding action be made for the bugs on campus? No. Are bugs a common thing in most outdoor settings? Yes. While bugs can be an annoyance to everyday life, they are a normal part of the environment around us. They exist, and so do we. Perhaps these same bugs have their own editorials way down beneath the ground, discussing their hatred for human intervention or what new tasty delights are to be found in outdoor trash cans. I think the way in which we’ve been subjected to staying in our homes for the past year-and-a-half due to the pandemic has put a serious toll on what we’ve been used to from the outside world. Not being confronted with the realities of nature for a long time is something we have to get used to collectively. For the time being, though, we should leave it to the custodians and the exterminators on campus. They’ll deal with this prevalent issue, and we should thank them for that.
Featured Image: David Moreno / Quaker Campus