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Mice mayhem in Campus Center

Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2012 14:06

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A mouse-trap on the third floor of the Campus Center.

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Anny Reyes, vice president of the Charles Drew Minority Association of Pre-Health Students, stands in a near-empty office on the third floor of the Campus Center. Administrators removed furniture from student offices after they found unsanitary and unsafe conditions while checking on an infestation of mice.

A mouse infestation led to the removal of furniture from 12 student group offices on the third floor of the University at Albany Campus Center last week.

Mice have been found throughout the building but the problem is believed to stem from food left out over the summer in third floor student group offices, said Scott Birge, the director of Campus Center facilities management.

While the problem may have originated on the third floor, mice were trapped last week in Birge's office and the Disability Resource Center, both of which are located on the first floor. Mice were also recently found in the Danes After Dark storage closet, which houses a popcorn machine.

Birge, who's been involved with Campus Center operations for over 25 years, said the mouse problem is the worst he's ever seen in the building.

"To tell you the truth, this is probably as extensive as I've seen it," Birge said.

John Murphy, UAlbany's associate vice president for student success, said he first became aware of the problem in July when he saw mousetraps in the university's Conflict Resolution Offices that are located on the same floor as the student offices.

"I started asking questions 'Is there a problem with mice in here?' and the staff said, 'Yea.' Of course the natural reaction was it's probably Chartwells downstairs, but it wasn't," Murphy said. "In fact the mice were fat and happy on the third floor of the Campus Center."

After it became apparent the problem was not coming from staff offices, members of the administration began looking in student offices for the source of the mouse problem. Murphy was shocked by the conditions in which he found several student-group offices.

"We started going through the offices and I was appalled. Honestly, I was just like overwhelmed," Murphy said. "Some were better than others. Some were disastrous."

In addition to old food, Murphy discovered furniture that was a safety hazard, not up to fire code and aesthetically unpleasing.

He decided the unacceptable furniture needed to be immediately removed. After Murphy found a family-operated junk removal business on Google, eight truckloads of junk were removed.

During the furniture removal, Murphy and the removal crew from AB & L Services experienced the mouse problem firsthand.

"At one point we were in one of the rooms and I picked up a bag and the bottom fell out of the bag and a mouse ran. In the bag was wasabi peas and cornmeal," Murphy said. "There were mouse droppings all over the place. The mice had eaten into the bag."

Murphy declined to say in which office the incident had occurred because he did not want to single out any student group. At another point during the furniture removal, a mouse jumped out of a couch that workers had picked up to throw out.

It cost "several thousand dollars" to remove the furniture Murphy said, but he declined to name an exact figure.

The affected groups, including Torch Yearbook, NYPIRG and ASUBA, returned to nearly empty offices after items such as couches, desks, chairs and coffee tables were deemed a health and safety hazard by members of the university administration. The Albany Student Press was also affected by the furniture removal.

The process to replace the removed furniture is just now beginning, Murphy said. How much money will be available to spend on new furniture has not yet been determined, Murphy said. The money will likely come from the Student Success, Campus Center Facilities and Student Association Budgets.

There is no timetable for when the student groups will receive furniture, although Birge said furniture will be replaced "sooner rather than later." For now student groups can request tables and chairs from his office until furniture is replaced, Birge said. He has already walked through the offices with a furniture vendor who is expected to develop a concept on what should be done with the space this week.

A new check-in and check-out policy, similar to those used by Residential Life, is likely to be implemented for student-group office space. Under the new policy, at the beginning of each academic year, student group leaders will have to go through the office space with a Student Involvement employee and fill out a room condition report.

At the end of the year, the state of the room will be evaluated and groups who abuse the space may lose their offices.

Several student groups, none of which wanted to go on the record for fear of hurting their standing with the administration, were upset by the timing of the furniture removal, having it taken right before the new semester began.

"My primary interest was clearing out the health and safety issue before [students] got back," Murphy said. "The timing on this thing is lousy. I'm not going to apologize because of what I walked into. I was appalled. I was angry that this could be allowed to get this bad."

Birge said the student groups usually are left alone to handle their business.

"We normally don't go in the student offices. We like to respect their privacy," Birge said.

The mice were not a threat to the building as much as they were a health concern, Birge said.

"They're more of a health concern more than anything else with their droppings," Birge said. "With a concrete building there's not a lot they can do except they can get into the carpets and they can get into the furniture."

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