A dead mouse was found in the cafeteria during dinner on Saturday — an incident that may be indicative of a larger rodent problem in Seymour Union.
According to Director of Facilities Scott Maust, at least three or four rodents have been found in the building in the last three weeks. The majority of the mice were in the dining area.
“It used to be every once in awhile you might see one here or there, but all of a sudden it just escalated,” Maust said.
Maust said there may be a number of reasons for an influx in rodents. They may have entered the building in a box of food or sought a new habitat after the prairie grass near the Quads was cut down. He also alluded to a rumor that a student living in Seymour let a pet mouse loose last year. Mice typically seek warmer places when the temperature begins to drop.
“It’s the season and we do have our pest control people out here regularly checking,” interim General Manager of Dining Services Kecia Tatman said.
The mouse, which was found underneath the conveyer belt, was likely killed by one of many traps in place around the cafeteria.
“Because we found him dead, that means it’s working,” Executive Chef Jason Crouch said.
Bon Appétit heard about the dead mouse after an employee reported it Saturday night. They were expecting pest control to come check the mouse traps on Wednesday morning.
“It is surprising. For the seven years I’ve been there I’ve had no such experience. The only mice I’ve had was in the compost room,” former Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer said.
Mayer, who started at Knox on Feb. 15, 2008 and left the college at the end of August, added that he had not seen any signs of rodents in Dining Services, aside from the composting area, in his time working at Knox.
“I don’t think it has to do with Bon Appétit taking over. They haven’t been there long enough to change anything like that. I think it’s just a coincidence,” Mayer said.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Knox Student obtained health inspection records from the last five years. The most recent inspection took place on Aug. 25 and the Hard Knox Café received a 97 out of 100 for a leaky sink that was fixed by maintenance immediately.
The lowest score the cafeteria has gotten was a 87 in March 2014.
The Hard Knox Café, Gizmo and C-Store are each inspected by the Knox County Health Department three times per year, and the inspections are always unannounced.
Mayer said if the Health Department were to find cockroaches or signs of rodents, it would be a major violation.
The Knox County Health Department declined to comment about the specific mouse but encouraged students to call the department to report incidents.
“It’s kind of nasty — I’m going to eat in the café still, as long as it’s not around the food,” said freshman Evan Economos.
Maust said that Four Seasons Pest Control, the pest control firm that Knox partners with, has been coming to campus to inspect the traps almost daily for the past few weeks.
He said the college has been working with the company for at least 20 years.
“They thought they were seeing more, so we stepped up the treatment program more,” Maust said. “We won’t back off on it.”
If students see rodents in any building, Maust said they should call the work order line so the maintenance department can contact Four Seasons.
The kitchen was built in 1954, according to Mayer. He said despite its age, the facility is in good shape.
“If you really look at it, it’s a really, really clean place. I’ve seen brand new places that aren’t as clean as that,” he said.
Despite new management, the cafeteria staff have stuck to standards of cleanliness set in place by Mayer, including weekly clean ups, temperature logs and maintaining a cleanliness checklist.
“I mean considering Bon Appétit is trying to make a good impression it’s a little disappointing. They need to step it up. Cleanliness is important when it comes to food,” said senior Jeremy Gogoel. “I’m off board and I get my friends to swipe me in, but I might cook for them more often.”