Since the start of the fall semester, Memorial University student Rebecca Morgan has been kept on the move due to a bedbug infestation at her student residence. (Submitted by Rebecca Morgan)
Black mould, unfinished walls and repeated bedbug infestations have kept Memorial University student Rebecca Morgan and her roommate on the move for the last three months — and she says MUN isn't doing enough to help.
Morgan, a third-year linguistics major, said the problems with her Burton's Pond apartment in St. John's were obvious from move-in day on Sept. 4.
She found unfinished walls in the bathroom and black mould on the corner of the bathtub, she said.
"My mattress, the bottom, was just covered in mildew. There was just dirt around. There was, like, stuff on the ceiling. Like, it was just dirty and very unclean," she told CBC News on Friday.
The building manager told Morgan there was a bedbug infestation and she and her roommate couldn't live in the apartment.
Morgan and her roommate were told they could return to their apartment in mid-October but left soon after finding bedbugs again. (Submitted by Rebecca Morgan)
They were moved into an isolation room at nearby Macpherson College, a wheelchair-accessible unit on the first floor that's separate from the other rooms. On Sept. 8 they were told the infestation had been handled, she said, and they moved back.
But within hours, she said, her roommate's bed was covered in bugs and they headed back to Macpherson College.
At a Sept. 11 meeting with building management, they were told the university didn't know where to put the pair of students but they couldn't be in the apartment for the next three weeks, she said. It meant they had to live in the isolation room without a kitchen.
"They told us we could go back to our apartment and cook our meals there, but we don't want to cook in a dirty apartment either. Like, if there are bugs there, we don't want to be there at all," said Morgan.
They had to wash their laundry at the Macpherson College laundry room, she said, which could have spread the bedbugs, and all the while, they are attending class.
They moved back to their apartment on Oct. 14 but their stay wasn't long. On Oct. 23 they found more bedbugs and her roommate ended up getting bitten. So it was back to the isolation room, she said.
"MUN's hope is that an apartment will open up and we'll want to move there. But we don't feel that we should have to move again," said Morgan.
"We don't feel comfortable moving into another Burton Pond apartment. Like, we don't know what problems could be with that apartment."
She said they've been told if they stay at Macpherson College they will have to pay for a meal plan, which is a problem because Morgan has severe dietary restriction so there's no guarantee her meals will be safe.
"They're saying that they can't exempt us from having to pay because it wouldn't be fair to other students. But I don't think it was fair to me to have bedbugs in my apartment, and I don't think I should have paid more money because my apartment wasn't inspected properly."
The problems with the apartment have also impacted her academic life as well, as she's had to move during midterms and go to meetings about the problem.
"It's really hard to go to class and be in class and wonder where you're going to live or if there're still bugs where you're living."
One of the problems Morgan found on move-in day was the unfinished wall in the bathroom. (Submitted by Rebecca Morgan)
Morgan said getting in touch with the university throughout the ordeal has also been an issue and said it feels like they've had to fight "for like the bare minimum of support."
If the issue had been resolved in the first instance, she said she wouldn't have spoken out about it.
"But it's just ridiculous at this point that it's still going on. Like, Week 10 of classes, and this situation still isn't fixed."
MUN taking action
Bruce Belbin, director of student residences and ancillary operations at Memorial, said the situation is unfortunate. The university is tracking four bedbug infestations this semester, he said.
Belbin said MUN has a contractor who inspects rooms, including with "bedbug dogs" that sniff for bugs — before the semester starts and after it ends, There univeristy also has hygiene policies and professional cleaning staff.
"Their protocols are pretty tight, and to have something repeat and recur is an unusual thing," he said. The university is working with a contractor to sort out Morgan's situation, he said.
Bruce Belbin, director of student residences and ancillary operations, says the university is working with a contractor to sort out problems with Morgan's apartment. (Submitted by Rebecca Morgan)
As for the unfinished walls and mould, Belbin said repairs were being done due to a water leak and the students were advised it would be a temporary disruption.
He also said MUN has offered the students discounts and meal plan coverage.