Administration and Board of Trustees must respond to bat infestations

Samuel Boudreau, Editor in Chief
Samuel Boudreau

My goal in this short speech is for Scot Council to formally request an explanation from the College’s administration and board of trustees regarding the prioritization of Holden Hall and any future plans regarding Compton, Wagner, Bissman and Douglas Hall in the College’s 2020 campus master plan. Additionally, I believe it is crucial for the College to provide a response to this request to the campus community along with how they will address bats infestations in the future and work to prevent the tragic consequences of rabies bites on campus. 

 As you all know, over 50 bats have been found in many College’s dorms and houses across campus. According to the College’s Department of Campus Safety, all 52 bat sightings from August 5 to September 12th were in dorms and houses without air conditioning and/or full-scale renovations in the last thirty years. Additionally, multiple students in residence buildings reported bat bites, posing a great risk to the safety and health of this campus, as the CDC reports that “Bats are the leading cause of rabies deaths in people in the United States” (2022).  

On August 25th and 30th, Jonathan Reynolds, Director of Residence Life, and Clifton  

Bobbitt, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, emailed the campus community regarding bat infestations in “older residential spaces” on campus. In the emails the two maintained the College’s traditional approach to these infestations, citing the  

“natural/seasonal” prevalence of bats in Wayne County along with students leaving doors and  

windows open. While these points are likely true, it is also true, that students in dorms/houses without air conditioning keep their windows open throughout the day and night due to uncomfortably hot temperatures in rooms. Dorms with air conditioning, including Luce, Babcock, Gault Manor, Gault Schoolhouse, Bornhuetter, Armington, Stevenson or Andrews, had no bat infestations, according to Campus Safety. Unless students in these recently renovated dorms refuse to report bat sightings, there appears to be a very strong correlation between dorms without air conditioning/full-scale renovations and bats. During the 2021 fall semester, Jonathan Reynolds told the Voice that “I would definitely say there is a correlation,” Reynolds said, “one of the things we have seen is that with the heat, students are wanting to open up their windows and put in their personal fans and, in some cases, personal AC units.” 

In 2012, Dober Lidsky Mathey (DLM), a campus planning firm, published a“Campus Plan” for The College of Wooster, calling to “renovate existing student housing, one or two buildings per year on a schedule that will allow the College to complete renovations within the next 10 years.” The firm conducted a survey of the student-body regarding housing conditions and recommendations. The document stated that “The sequence of housing to be renovated are: Wagner, Compton, Andrews, Douglass, Bissman, Holden, Armington and Stevenson.”

“Even if the College plans to demolish said dorms and transition towards apartment-based suites, these plans, along with a  timeline, should be available to the campus community amidst this ongoing public health crisis that could lead to the death or permanent disability of students.”

-Samuel Boudreau

To the the College’s credit, Armington, Stevenson, and Andrews received full-scale renovations from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, however, the College partnered with Hastings+ Chivetta, a campus planning firm, and designed a new plan. According to Samuel Casey, former Editor in Chief of The Wooster Voice and Vice President of Scot Council, reported that “Objectives that were not yet completed would be prioritized in the 2020 Master Plan.”  According to a 10-year preliminary plan from Hastings+Chivetta, Holden Hall is the plan’s lowest priority, as it will not receive a full-scale renovation until 2030-2031. While the plan aims to “replace” the majority of the College’s campus housing in 2023 and 2029-2030, Hastings+Chivetta do not mention any plans regarding Bissman, Wagner, Douglass or Compton.  While these are just plans at the mercy of institutional donations and capital campaign projects, I believe it is appropriate for the Scot Council to formally request an explanation from the  College’s administration and board of trustees regarding the prioritization of Holden Hall and the  future plans regarding Wagner, Douglass, Bissman and Compton Hall. Even if the College plans to demolish said dorms and transition towards apartment-based suites, these plans, along with a  timeline, should be available to the campus community amidst this ongoing public health crisis  that could lead to the death or permanent disability of students.  

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