The various visual and creative arts students of SLCC, particularly in animation and film, find inspiration from a resident rodent in the South City Campus Center for Arts & Media (CAM).
A bit of buzz about CAM’s mystery mouse is mounting from reports of sightings by faculty and staff, along with traces of tracks left behind since the start of the semester. It appears the Mass Communication Center paparazzi has yet to catch up with the critter for photographs or comment. Have you seen Mickey, Jerry, Mighty or Speedy Gonzalez lately?
It’s all starting with a mouse
Alison Arndt-Wilde, program manager for the Mass Communication Center was the first to meet the mouse in her new office space shortly after her move from Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
It was the second week of class and the first sighting of the mouse, who may have been too busy to attend due to registration.
“I finally had some down time and started unpacking a box that had just mainly files in it, and I noticed there were basically pieces of my almonds all chewed up,” says Arndt-Wilde, “not really thinking about” a snack she often “munches on” at her desk while working.
Evidence inside the box became the first clue of something amiss.
“There were almond shreds in the box. So I reached in and looked a little bit and could see also some paper shredded and stuff like that.”
Arndt-Wilde immediately put in a “Fix-It” request to facilities, Sept. 12, to report an apparent mouse problem. She then waited for a response.
“Of course, I immediately threw out my almonds,” says Arndt-Wilde. “I didn’t get any response, until I think it was the next day, and that box was still sitting there and I heard a noise in it. I looked over and the little mouse just peeped over the edge, and I was like ‘oh my gosh!’”
Any formalities of proper introduction were quickly abandoned; she spent the remainder of her work day out in the open areas of CAM and the afternoon at Miller Campus for a meeting.
Meanwhile, news made its way to her supervisor, Neil Vanderpool, associate dean for communication and visual arts departments, who promptly called Facilities Services to have the matter addressed immediately.
“My boss was actually very concerned,” says Arndt-Wilde.
More sightings, exploring the CAM
“I have heard other people who have seen them in their office. Craig Ferrin, and I think, Jon Clark also saw them in his office,” says Arndt-Wilde.
The mouse may be majoring in communication with possibly a special interest in video or broadcast media.
“Kachina [Choate] saw the actual mouse, too, in the equipment room,” says Arndt-Wilde. “One of the big concerns with the equipment room is that if they get in and gnaw on wires, they can do some major damage to some very expensive equipment in there.”
No equipment leaves that storage room, situated just west of the office suite, without Choate knowing about it, even if it were for an intently interested mouse. Choate checks equipment in and out throughout the week.
“We gave her two of those electronic devices for her area, and I don’t think she has seen them in there since,” says Arndt-Wilde.
The mouse, getting better oriented to the new CAM, apparently found its way further westward to the music recording suite of offices, located one corridor inward from the equipment room.
“I was sitting in my office one morning and meeting with our associate dean, Neil Vanderpool,” says Jon Clark, professor of theater technology. “[Vanderpool] said, ‘there’s a mouse right there! It just ran out of your office.’ So I didn’t see the mouse, but he saw it. This was probably the second or third week of school, early in the semester.”
Stephen Sue, instructor in the music recording technology program, has an office two spaces over from Clark’s.
“Nope, I haven’t seen the mouse. A shame too, since I keep putting out nice cheese for it every day,” laughs Sue.
Vanderpool, who was with Clark on the reported second sighting, is now considered a key witness.
“It was a couple of weeks just after we had moved into the building. We had heard about the problem, and I was very concerned about it because of our faculty just moving in,” says Vanderpool. “So I sat down to talk with Jon about something totally different, and all of a sudden there it was, just ran out into the hall.”
Is it true, Mr. Vanderpool, that you would testify to this observation?
“Yes, that is true. I do,” says Vanderpool. “I saw a mouse leave Jon Clark’s office, scurrying like the little varmint that it was.”
Someone giving a tour of the new CAM to a visiting group saw the mouse in the corridor, according to Julie Gay, professor in the Communication department.
“It was Neil or maybe Richard Scott [interim dean of Visual Arts and Communication],” says Gay.
Mounting evidence, building a case
Julie Gay’s office, also in the Communication department, is one site where possibly the greatest evidence has been discovered. Files and papers chewed, others soiled, and feces left behind.
“Yes, the people in the Communication department, Alison, Nick and Julie, over at the east side of the building, are having the worst problems with the mice,” confirms Clark.
“I know Julie Gay found a whole lot of [evidence] in her office,” says Arndt-Wilde, “and then Tyler Smith…”
Tyler Smith, professor of broadcast news and documentary video production, experienced an apparent misfortune from a mouse.
“I came into my office in the morning, a typical morning. Went in about 9 o’clock, put my lunch on my desk, which was a nice fresh peach, left to go teach class at 10 o’clock,” says Smith, “and came back sometime around 3:30 [p.m.] after teaching, and sure enough there were nibble marks out of the piece of fruit and droppings on the desk top.”
Did you suspect a disgruntled student or hungry faculty member eyeing your peach, Mr. Smith?
“It crossed my mind.”
“But with a little bit of deduction, I thought it was probably the mice that other people have seen,” says Smith. “But soon after, I reported it to administration, and they promptly placed traps, poison and sonic deterrent in my office.”
Perhaps the mouse was not interested, after all, in taking up broadcast television production, as it hasn’t been seen, nor any subsequent evidence, in Smith’s office since that September day.
“I have not seen the mouse, or any, live or dead,” confirms Smith.
Comical to some, not comical to others
“I think the mice are enjoying being in a warm place when it gets cold outside at night. They are just like anybody else. They want to be in a warm place with a roof over their head,” says Clark.
For Clark, the situation did not come as any surprise, given CAM has been under construction for some time, and even during this semester after the building became operable. He surrendered to the idea that mice are present in almost any large building.
“I don’t think I have worked anywhere where you didn’t have an occasional mouse break in. I’m sure this building will be fine. It’s like bugs; it’s just one of those things,” says Clark.
The situation was a bit of surprise to the architect, whose design did not take into consideration that creatures other than humans might gather in the nice, wide-open places in and around CAM.
“The architect was walking around one day with the project manager, and they were looking in and looking at the huge mess my office was in, and I said, ‘Sorry, it is because I had a mouse in here, and we’re still trying to get cleaned up,’” says Arndt-Wilde. “And she was like, ‘What, a mouse in my building? No!’ And she said ‘You must have brought it with you,’ and I was like, ‘No, there is a mouse in your brand new, beautiful building.’”
Libby Haslam, of GSBS Architects and project architect for the CAM project was the one walking through that day.
“They are enjoying the building too. Mickey Mouse is home,” says Haslam.
Maybe it did cross her mind that a building that houses animation and film studies might find cousins of Disney characters amidst the inhabitants.
“It is kind of funny. All are welcome,” says Haslam.
This is not apparently the view of those whose offices have been broken into.
“It was finally about a month later when it was Julie that had droppings everywhere, and she’s like ‘Okay, we’re done,’” says Arndt-Wilde. “So we went to the store and got those little electronic devices that you plug in for all our offices. Haven’t seen too much a problem since.”
“Facilities came the day after we bought those, and they put out glue traps. It’s my personal opinion, but I think that’s not the best way to deal with mice. They are kind of cruel,” says Arndt-Wilde.
Facilities responds, takes action
“They wanted to be in a new place, too,” jests Bob Lund, facilities manager for the College and whose responsibility includes all the buildings north of the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. Lund has been with the college for fourteen years.
Facilities sent out a memo to all staff and faculty explaining that the problem is often associated with construction work that places the buildings at risk due to unsealed conditions. Food left or stored in offices is always an attraction, too.
“Whenever you have a major construction project, as we have had here at South City Campus the last few years, the building is open to the elements in one way or another year round. This has happened on all of our campuses whenever there is new construction,” explains Lund. “Mice are usually the first inhabitants of the building. Of course, we don’t know how many, or where they’re at or whatever, but we do know that they don’t pay tuition, so we try to get rid of them.”
The CAM and South City Campus are unique perhaps from most of the other campuses because of old utility tunnels under a large portion of the structure that date back to 1929.
“You have to imagine, we are over tunnels that were built in 1929. So for sure, there are some little buggies down there,” says Haslam.
“There are utility tunnels under the main portion of the 1929 section of the building. Approximately three-fourths of it has a basement under there, but it is dirt floor,” says Lund. “So it’s just another way for critters to get in.”
The tunnels contain all the piping linking to the boiler and chiller plant located on campus; air handlers and equipment that supplies the heating and air conditioning to the building occupy the low ceiling tunnels. They are still in use today, and some of the equipment dating to that era is fully operational currently.
“Even in cold weather a mouse can actually fit through an opening smaller than a dime. So if there is any opening at all, and it’s cold outside, they’ll find their way in,” says Lund.
Food and water makes it convenient for mice to inhabit buildings. Easy for humans, too, but for mice they have an extraordinary keen sense of smell and hearing. Not so much vision, as mice are often near blind.
The usual protocol for Facilities after a complaint call comes in is to clean the affected areas, then set traps along the mice pathways or areas where tracks are detected. Some traps are spring-loaded, others are the glue-stick variety. Poisons are never used.
“We are environmentally-friendly, and if a mouse gets poisoned and gets inside a wall, there is quite a stench when it dies from the poison,” explains Lund. “And now we can’t get to it. So that’s one of several reasons why we don’t use poison.”
Lund cites that CAM is not the only building, nor South City the only campus, to have mice inhabiting the structures, and in fact, it is not only a SLCC problem.
“They’re everywhere,” says Lund.
Mice have also been discovered in the new administration building at Taylorsville Redwood Campus according to Lund.
For many of the faculty affected at CAM, none ever witnessed mice at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. A concern for some, however, is mice located near kitchen and culinary spaces.
Chef Laura Marone, baking instructor at the Miller Campus, claims that not once in three years have mice been detected. Food Services carries the responsibility in those cases of controlling and preventing any pest infiltration.
“They kind of own the kitchens and they get regular checks by the health department, so they take care of any problems that may arise,” confirms Lund. “And they probably try to eliminate them before they even have them, by means of keeping the kitchen clean and that type of thing.”
In all non-kitchen and non-culinary spaces, pest and rodent prevention and control is by Facilities Services, which includes both maintenance technical staff and the staff from janitorial services. Lund states that in only the most severe cases would an outside expert professional contractor be brought in.
Deone Sargent, a custodian with the college the past sixteen years, serves the South City Campus.
“In the old facility building, they have mice problems all the time, a lot last winter.
And fall semester, when it started, they had mice in there, too, running around,” says Sargent.
According to Sargent, the mouse traps they lay down are effective most times. The last time she saw evidence of mice was last month, October.
“Maybe the problem is gone. I haven’t heard any more about it,” says Sargent.
What about other deterrents, Mr. Lund, such as snakes, cats, or hawks?
“Let’s leave the snakes off the plate, okay? I have actually seen a resident cat on campus, it’s a black one that has a collar on it. I get here at quarter to six every morning, and he’s usually prowling every single morning I come in,” says Lund.
Cats, however, can overrun a place, too, due to their reproducing ability.
As for hawks, one did find its way into the Health Science Center at Jordan Campus a couple years back, but more likely for pure shelter than for any mouse problem.