This fall semester, many students at Randolph-Macon have been experiencing bedbug infestations in their dormitories.
The infestations have not been limited to a certain dormitory, old or new. They have been reported in several freshman village dorms including Andrews Hall as well as in Thomas Branch dormitory and certain floors of Mary Branch.
Early in the school year, Randolph-Macon conducted an inspection of all rooms on campus with a bug-detecting dog. After discovering that several rooms were infested, many students were forced to stay in Ashland hotels for up to a week.
“They came and told me there was bed bugs near my roommate’s refrigerator. Prior to this we had no suspicion of bedbugs at all,” freshman Rachel Samuelson said, “They asked us to leave the same day and move into a hotel.”
At the time of Samuelson’s inspection, up to seven rooms had been found to have bedbugs, but more were discovered in weeks to come. Samuelson and her roommate were ordered to move out the same day the bugs were discovered.
While the school and Pur Environmental conducted a heating treatment, the two girls stayed at the Hampton Inn for three days before moving to the Randolph-Macon Guest House for two days.
“It was a very frustrating situation and definitely affected my ability to do homework and study for tests. It was also hard because neither my roommate or I had a car, so we had to get different people to drive us to school every day,” Samuelson said.
Other students have been affected by the infestation as well. Sophomore cheerleader Lauren Pugh, a resident of the Mary Branch basement, also experienced displacement to the Hampton Inn and struggled to arrive to classes and athletic commitments on time after striving to locate parking on campus.
“It’s not something that I would want to go back through,” Pugh said, “Coming back to our room to find that all our stuff from the middle of our room had been placed in the hall was not a good feeling. Our door was unlocked and the light was on. We were hoping nothing had been taken.”
Pugh said that she knew of three other cases in Mary Branch Dormitory as well as “a lot” of cases in freshman village, and a few that she knew of in Thomas Branch.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Grant Azdell, Randolph-Macon is not “some outlier,” as students may assume. “After hearing that other Colleges and Universities were noticing a problem, we were proactive and brought in a detection dog to check all of our rooms.”
Azdell added that the majority of schools in the United States deal with bedbug issues and that the problem exists and nearly every school in Virginia.
Dormitory rooms at Randolph-Macon were also checked over the summer, leading Vice President Azdell to believe that bugs arrived on boxes when students moved in at the beginning of the year.
The bugs have become more prevalent in the U.S. after arriving here from other countries and becoming resistant to pesticides. They can be transported in luggage, book bags and backpacks, cardboard boxes, and even on clothing, Azdell said.
“Bed bugs don’t care where they live,” Azdell said. “There is no pattern or particular building where they are found that is consistent with what we are seeing at R-MC. They just want to be close to a sleeping person.”
At Randolph-Macon, heat treatments are the most effective way to handle bedbug infestations. According to Pur Environmental, rooms must be heated to a lethal temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit for at least seven minutes. The website warns that all drawers, closets, bags, and boxes must be opened and furniture may be taken apart in order for the heat to reach every part of the infested room. The entire process takes six to ten hours.
Brochures have been distributed to students in order to educate them on prevention and response to bed bugs.
-May McNeil ’16, Junior Features Editor