The university held a town hall style meeting with students last month to discuss the issue and ensure everyone was aware of the attack plan.
They have since reported that all the rooms where bedbugs were detected and neighbouring rooms were completely treated, and the students were given laundry cards to wash all their clothing and bedding. Officials now believe that SFU is bedbug free.
“SFU has not been immune to the bedbug problem,” admits Chris Rogerson, associate director of residence life. “No multi-unit housing provider is.”
There have been student reports of bedbugs in SFU dorms in previous years, but never more than one or two isolated cases. So far this year, SFU has spent close to $20k on prevention and treatment for bedbugs.
Rogerson emphasizes that university settings have advantages that private apartments or social housing do not when dealing with bedbug outbreaks. “Universities have departments like mine whose job is to educate tenants, dispel myths and misconceptions, and organize quick reactions to problems. We encourage early reporting, and our attitude is, address the bug, not the person.”
Rogerson explains that at Simon Fraser University, bedbug sniffing dogs have been brought in proactively to check residences annually. The dogs are usually brought in a few weeks into the start of classes in fall. “We don’t get into saying, ‘Well, the unit was clean before you got here.’ The best defence is to make sure there’s no stigma attached, so students don’t decide to suffer in silence.”
Routine inspections are becoming part of the bedbug prevention practice for many schools. Not only do universities have to deal with students, but ultimately have to deal with the students’ parents. Parents are worried about their child’s health, and will be worried about infestations spreading to the homes. Bedbugs travel easily in laundry and on other personal effects.
News of on-campus bedbug infestations makes it into the news. Ryerson University in Toronto has had intermittent problems dating back to at least 2006. The University of Alberta, which had to evacuate and treat the entire 20-storey Newton Place residence in 2008. McGill was hit tornado-fashion in 2007 and 2008, with New Residence Hall, MORE House, and Solin Hall all affected. The University of Calgary admits to a steady “one or two cases per year,” according to spokesman Grady Semmens. Humber College in Toronto is following up a positive finding last month with a campus-wide sweep of residences using bedbug-detecting dogs.
Universities are very susceptible to bedbug infestations. They have large populations living in small quarters, students traveling from assorted study sessions and parties carrying books, coats and bags. “Universities are in the line of fire,” declares Don McCarthy, president of Braemar Pest Control in Bedford, N.S., and board member of the Canadian Pest Management Association. “You’ve got transient populations. You’ve got a lot of the social aspects that come with being at university—your buddies come over and sleep over; everybody’s going back and forth to parties and study sessions. There is not a major university anywhere in North America that does not know this is a major problem, whether or not they have it.”
Canada-Bedbugs.com would like to applaud the officials at Simon Fraser University for approaching the bedbug issues on their campus with honesty and initiative.