By Topaz London
Stephen Bentley woke up at 5 a.m. during the first week of school feeling paranoid, fatigued and itchy.
The first-year urban analysis student and Pitman Hall resident said he had bedbugs — the tiny insects that linger in clothing, furniture and mattresses to feed on human blood.
“I would fall asleep for like two hours, then get disturbed by an unwanted tickle,” Bentley said. To avoid the hassle of dealing with maintenance, he decided not to report the nuisance and tried to exterminate the bugs in his room with house cleaners and a vacuum.
“I figured it was something I could get rid of myself,” he said.
Earlier this month a student’s room in the International Living Learning Centre (ILC) was cleared of the insects, said Glen Weppler, manager of student housing.
“There has been a resurgence in bedbugs in the last couple of years,” said Weppler.
Due to the urban environment and close living quarters, bedbugs thrive in cities like Toronto, and Ryerson is not immune. The dorm rooms in Pitman Hall, the ILC and O’Keefe House have had brushes with the nocturnal plague.
According to Weppler, once a bedbug infestation is confirmed, maintenance staff take all the students’ linens and clothing to be dry cleaned. Then a pest company is hired to eliminate the bugs. Housing covers the $1000 fee to clean each room using residence fees.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to never have a room to room transmission because we do react quickly,” Weppler said. “But the first step in that process is for students to make us aware of the problem.”
With no long-term method to prevent infestations, bedbugs are an ongoing problem. Stronger pesticides have been banned for health reasons and the constant flow of students helps them spread around campus.
Neill-Wycik, a housing co-op near Ryerson, had multiple bedbug infestations this year. A second-year Ryerson student living in Neill-Wycik woke up on Sept. 6 with bites covering her body. While she waited for her room to be fumigated, the student crashed on friends couches in Pitman Hall. Now she just wants out of Neill-Wycik. “I put myself on Pitman’s waiting list,” she said.
Andrew Malcolm, a lawyer for Tatham & Pearson LLP, said students get slighted because they don’t know their rights. He suggests students contact the Landloard and Tenant Board, which resolves disputes between residential landlords and tenants.
Dan Kartzalis, health environment manager with Toronto Public Health, said concerned students should contact a professional exterminator and their local public health offical. Neill-Wycik’s housing staff were unavailable for comment.