Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Unhygienic, unsafe residential life practices are not a rite of passage for anyone

Living in college dorms isn’t a glamorous experience — there’s always a chance of ending up with messy roommates, structural integrity issues in your room and communal hall bathrooms.

Many “quirks” of residential life have been shoved aside and ceremoniously labeled a “rite of passage.” These less-than-ideal accommodations are something every student has come to expect. After all, we’re here for education and newfound independence — not vacation.

However, we must be careful not to normalize unsafe and unhygienic practices just because they’re common. Often, the issues that crop up in dorms are “primal and just absurd,” one student said.

Yes, we’re talking about the bat that flew through a hole in a student’s ceiling in the middle of the night last month. After reaching out to Boston University’s Facilities Management and Operations — as students are taught to do in these emergencies — her and her two neighbors were essentially told to deal with it themselves.

So what did they do? They crafted DIY weapons, chased the bat down and killed it themselves.

After the story spread across campus, a Boston Magazine writer reached out to a BU representative about the event and wrote that facilities management is able to help with emergencies on the weekends, but because it was late and there weren’t enough available resources, the University gave the students advice instead. 

The bat isn’t an isolated example — just an extreme one. Pests and bugs are not new at BU. Recently, students have reported animal droppings, mice, cockroaches and even birds in their rooms.

Some of this is unavoidable. At least with bugs and small mice, it may be impossible to fully prevent such occurrences in the city. But just because it’s inevitable doesn’t mean the school shouldn’t respond quickly and effectively.


The problem doesn’t just lie in the University’s poor response to a living, flying, potentially rabies-infected bat either. It also lies in the fact that there was a hole in the student’s ceiling large enough for a bat to fly through in the first place.

Other students have come forward with similar complaints, citing rotting floors, flooding bathrooms and mold.

10 Buick Street and 33 Harry Agganis Way may be the only residence buildings that have a reputation of being clean and comfortable, given they are some of the newest buildings on campus.

But to land a room in either building requires sheer luck and higher housing fees. Why should only the students who can afford better accommodations be able to live comfortably while the rest of us are left fending off the inevitable mouse or some other unwanted guest?

Furthermore, the rooms and bathrooms in traditional dormitory residences are cesspools of germs and grime. We can recount firsthand horror stories involving bodily fluids and have seen cleaning efforts be insufficient as hair lines the walls of communal showers, toilets stay clogged and food sits in the sinks.

Students pay an exorbitant amount of tuition every year, which should be more than enough for BU to invest in regular deep cleaning.

It’s clear that a proper clean — more than a spray and wipe of a bathroom counter — of both dorm rooms and bathrooms would do wonders. Ideally, a deep bathroom clean every other week or more often would create a more sanitary environment for students — a feature we should recognize the importance of after living through a pandemic.

Resident assistants could also help create incentives for students to clean through floor-wide competitions or include cleanliness as part of their routine room check-ins. Though this may be slightly too strict, it could also help students who are struggling if RAs identify the warning signs that come with stress and deteriorating mental health.

With all that said, the majority of the grossness in college dorms isn’t really the University’s fault, but rather the fault of those select individuals who defy all sense and reasoning.

Though we may be college students who are still learning crucial life skills such as cleaning and properly taking care of ourselves, it doesn’t mean we should be content with such poor quality of life. It also doesn’t mean we are justified in leaving huge messes, especially in communal spaces.

We must be able to show basic kindness and consideration for our fellow peers and the essential workers who spend hours cleaning up after us. Simply put your trash away rather than litter used period products and condoms everywhere. Take your hair out of the drain after you shower. Don’t leave the toilet clogged without calling Facilities. 

This is the bare minimum. We are given so much freedom, and we have to be able to wield that freedom responsibly and respectfully. We are also adults, and asking ourselves to throw away our trash and clean up after ourselves is not absurd.

One other way BU can help in this regard is by offering public cleaning supplies in dorms — such as gloves and wipes in the bathrooms — so they are easily accessible and can be incorporated into students’ daily routines. Large-style residences can also continue to offer resources such as vacuums that students can use in their dorms.

BU can do more to better students’ quality of life, and BU Facilities should be more responsive to emergency calls. But the brunt of responsibility lies on students to clean up after themselves.

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