Jazz Professor David Kopplin teaches with lecture materials in one hand – and sometimes with a yellow broom in the other.
Since the beginning of the year, professors and students in Music Building 24 have taught and learned through a stubborn rat infestation, dating back to 2006.
“It’s a mixture of shock and laughter,” Kopplin said earlier this month. “My problem is I don’t want this to be the new normal. I don’t want to accept the fact that we have rats in the building.”
The Music Department notified campus Environmental Health and Safety of the problem twice in December of last year, according to environmental health and safety manager Michael DeSalvio.
EHS created a control plan and arranged for traps to be set.
DeSalvio said rats were caught in December, but more were seen in January, possibly attracted to food left in the breakroom during winter break.
Two days after the incident was reported, rat traps were placed again, and the rodents were caught.
He discourages leaving doors open and leaving food in classes and trash cans for extended periods of time.
On March 15, EHS was notified the rats were back.
“We have a set action plan,” DeSalvio said.
“Take note of the concern, report it to our vendor, and work with the vendor, and faculty and staff on assessment and treatment.”
EHS recommends alerting the department of rodent concerns.
Anonymous concerns can be submitted online on the environmental health and safety web page.
Until the infestation is resolved, Kopplin can be seen carrying a bright yellow broom to class.
Kopplin said rats enter classrooms through walls and ceilings.
“It was the 19th, [of April] but the rat came to class like three times,” said Kopplin. “That’s why I chased it with a broom.”
Rats are spreading beyond classrooms.
Kopplin recalls rat sightings in professors’ offices and recording studios.
Third-year music industry studies student Charisse Talaro has seen rat droppings on music equipment in the recording studio.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns rodents can spread more than 35 diseases to humans.
Music Department Chair Peter Yates works to keep food scraps and trash outside of the building.
“They are very smart and clever creatures and they enjoy the same things we do: Shelter, food, and recreation,” said Yates.
Yates’ main concern is rats will make a home of the department’s costly Steinway pianos.
Sticky traps have been placed by exterminators and Yates awaits approval to seal doors and entryways.
Located across from the music department, the theater building also is having rat problems, Yates said.
In the meantime, music students must do their best to learn, despite rats in the walls and ceilings.
In a video taken by a student, a large gray rodent disrupts a class while running above classroom speakers.
Student footage and pictures of rats were sent to the dean’s office in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Kopplin said.
The rat infestation remains under attack by EHS and their vendor, according to DeSalvio.
DeSalvio believes it is a group effort on behalf of the campus community to report any rodent activity spotted, as well as keeping trash outside of buildings.