Because we had no choice but to become so closely acquainted, our room’s mouse quickly became “Mousey” to us quadmates. We saw Mousey so often that we had to nickname him. He hung around on our desks, under our beds, in the common room, you name it. We called P-Safe’s emergency line, but they just told us to calm the f down, that it wasn’t in fact an emergency, and to email Housing and Real Estate Services instead. Housing eventually came and left some traps.
We reminded ourselves that one room in Mathey College had bedbugs, and another lice, so we shouldn’t complain. We tried to think about Cinderella and those cute little mouse helpers she had, or that movie “Ratatouille.” “They’ve just been unfairly villainized in popular culture,” one of my roommates said, trying to calm me down after I almost stepped on Mousey.
One day, that same roommate locked eyes with Open. Dead. Mouse. Eyes. She emailed Housing again, letting them know that Mousey — or simply a mouse, it’s hard to tell — was in the trap, but they responded saying that nobody was available to remove it until Monday.
It was Friday.
We laugh at the days we used to complain about the cockroaches.
After finally getting rid of the mouse on Monday morning (shoutout to Dennis and Yamile), Housing left several of the traps behind, just in case there were more mice scurrying around. Great idea, we thought then. We were wrong: Ignorance was bliss. We’ve found four dead mice in our room since then — most of them left in there for hours, if not days. And one still persists, outsmarting all the traps. Maybe it’s the original Mousey.
As I complained to my friends, their reactions were usually disgust (“ewwww, imagine them crawling over your bed”), laughter (“this is why Mathey sucks, also, how much are you paying for tuition again lol?”), anger (“so there was a carcass rotting in your room for over 24 hrs? WTF?!”) but, ultimately, resignation. My friend Saran Touré ’22 said, “Yeah, I often feel like I shouldn’t complain too much because I’m supposed to be super grateful to be here. Like, because I have so much to lose, I can’t fully speak out.” As she finished chewing she paused, then added, “but then I realize that I don’t owe this school anything.”
Given the age of Mathey’s buildings and and the abundance of heat and food inside, I understand that the existence of mice can’t necessarily be controlled, but Saran’s words did make me reconsider my nervousness about asking the University to remove the dead mice quickly. We were perhaps too polite, too patient, and too quiet about it all. Because I didn’t want to appear ungrateful for being here, I tiptoed around in a haze of perpetual gratitude. I should be grateful to be at the University, yes, but not to the extent that I feel nervous about speaking my mind.
I’m thankful to Housing and their staff for answering all of our emails and for (eventually) removing the dead mice from our room, but, from now on, I also won’t be afraid to email them more assertively — or maybe just send them a bunch of links to mouse diseases like hantavirus, Salmonella, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
Because whether it’s for something as small as mice in my room, or as big as a professor saying something offensive in class, I don’t want my gratitude to hold me back — especially regarding injustices on campus because, unlike the mice, I can control my choice to confront them.
For students who are of color, disabled, female, trans, gay, low-income, immigrant, first-generation, or otherwise marginalized, it’s easy to feel like we’re the exception, and that because there aren’t many of us here, or “because I come from someplace way worse,” as another student told me, we should feel indebted to the University. But we shouldn’t. As Saran said, we “don’t owe this school anything.”
From now on, I’m pushing myself to shake off my shyness. After all, if I can’t even speak up about mice, how will I ever speak out about larger issues here? Rodents might be inevitable, but the historical injustices on this campus don’t have to be.
So, I guess I owe my four-legged roommate a huge thanks for teaching me a valuable lesson during my first few months at the University. This one’s for you, Mousey.