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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Rumors of fleas plague campus


In the first week of September, rumors circulated that fleas may have infiltrated South Campus, specifically Main and Cleveland Halls. However, those rumors seem to be unfounded.

Dennis Perkins, the Director of Residence Life, confirmed that he is aware of students’ concerns but said that he has no evidence of fleas in the dorms.

According to Perkins, Residence Life has received only one complaint about fleas from a student. The student was then directed to SHAW, where it was determined that fleas were not responsible for the student’s discomfort. After some further investigation, FM found no evidence of fleas in the dorms.

“We had our FM look at the space. They’ve done some tests on the space, and they’re not finding anything that would result in fleas,” Perkins said.

Perkins stressed that a misdiagnosis by the student does not mean they are “delusional,” but he attributed some misdiagnoses to the new physical environment in which Grinnell students find themselves at the beginning of the year.

“What we know, as professionals who have done this for a long time, is that this is a different place. So whether it’s Iowa, whether it’s the United States – you may come from a different country – you have to adjust to the environment. … When students come and they’re here for the first few weeks, things happen, and they may be picking up environmental pieces that they did not anticipate or expect.”

Perkins said that if just one more student came forward, he would begin investigating more thoroughly. But as of now – despite the rumors – he has seen no evidence of fleas. However, he did not outright dismiss the rumors, instead identifying a tendency he says may contribute to a lack of communication between students and administration: instead of using their resources, students talk amongst themselves.

“We have not had any other students come forward to say that this has happened. We have heard that there are lots of students out there, but in terms of students who have come forward to us, there has only been one,” Perkins said. “We want those students to either come to us so we can give them the resources or to go – if it’s something medically related – go to SHAW and get checked out.”

If students do believe they have seen or been bitten by fleas on campus, professor David Campbell, biology, said they are likely cat fleas, which are more common than dog or human fleas. Campbell emphasized that fleas in the US are nothing more than a nuisance to humans.

He recommends students wash their clothes with soap and water and vacuum their carpet. For cat owners on campus, Campbell says to empty the cat’s litter box regularly. Fleas reproduce in cat feces, so without the feces the fleas will be unable to reproduce.

For his part, Perkins reiterated that Residence Life is there to help students in whatever ways they need. If a student encounters problems, Perkins wants them to contact their CA, RLC or other appropriate resources.

“We want to support students, of course. I don’t think that’s just something that we say. We truly feel like we have the resources [and] the guidance to be able to impart onto students.”

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