Bed Bugs Attack Dorms
Among the new inhabitants of New School housing this semester are residents of a different breed — bed bugs.
In early September, several rooms at Loeb Residence Hall and William Street Residence Hall were found to have bed bugs. The New School notified students living in university housing in an email sent on September 21.
“We have had three confirmed cases of bed bugs in various residences this year,” wrote Rob Lutomski, assistant vice president of student housing and residence life, in the email.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. They are flat, oval-shaped, and roughly the size of seeds. Although it is difficult to determine how to get bed bugs, they can be contracted by coming into contact with used furniture and clothing. Resistant to pesticides, they cause skin rashes and possibly allergic reactions, tending to strike people in their beds late at night.
Lutomski said the cases were discovered shortly after the weekend of September 28 when Hurricane Irene passed over New York, and many New School housing residents moved into their dorms.
“We suspect that during the hurricane, many students opted to stay in other places — in hotels or with friends — and may have brought the bed bugs back into the dorm,” Lutomski wrote in an email to The Free Press.
In the past two years, there have been four confirmed cases of bed bugs at both William Street and the 20th Street Residence Hall.
The school has a policy for dealing with claims of bed bugs. Before a bed bug infestation can be verified, the room must be investigated. A professional exterminator must then send a bed bug-sniffing dog or a trained entomologist to confirm their presence.
The process, which can take up to five hours per room, includes sealing and washing all bed linens, clothing, and eating utensils. Mattresses are either discarded or treated and placed in storage, depending on their age and condition. If more time is required to clean the room, housing provides all affected students with temporary housing in the same building until the room is ready. After two weeks, there is a follow-up to confirm the room is clean.
“Because we treated the affected rooms right away, we were able to exterminate the bugs and prevent them from traveling to other rooms,” Lutomski said.
Lang sophomore and Loeb resident Katherine Brown was nervous upon receiving the email from Lutomski notifying students of the infestation.
“I’m paranoid about things infesting places, and I was really terrified because they didn’t tell us which dorms they were,” she said. “I was just really scared because I didn’t know what they would want us to do.”
Although there have been confirmed cases in the past, this is the first time the housing office has alerted all residents of a bed bug infestation.
“Because this time we had three cases in two weeks, we decided to err on the side of caution and alert students, to keep them vigilant and informed,” Lutomski said.