Meeting called over phantom defecator

by Beacon Staff • March 26, 2008

On Monday night, rumors began swirling as flyers posted on the 13th and 14th floors called residents to a mandatory meeting.

Tensions rose when students arrived and were greeted not only by their Resident Assistants, but also by Resident Director Leanne Valdes.,This week, an unknown culprit left two unwelcome surprises in the Piano Row dormitory.

On Monday night, rumors began swirling as flyers posted on the 13th and 14th floors called residents to a mandatory meeting.

Tensions rose when students arrived and were greeted not only by their Resident Assistants, but also by Resident Director Leanne Valdes.

The reason for the emergency gathering? Someone has been defecating in the trash bins on each floor's hallway.

The phantom dumper, christened by some residents as "Poop-can Sam" after the Froot Loops cereal mascot "Toucan Sam," left his or her mark on two separate occasions and the Office of Housing and Residence Life used the 9:30 p.m. assembly to stress its disgust with the behavior.

Inge Kellerman, a sophomore living on the 14th floor, said everyone was laughing at the meeting, including the RAs.

Valdes repeatedly told attendees to stop making light of what she said was a serious subject.

Director of Housing and Residence Life David Haden said the responsible party, if identified, would face conduct charges and potential sanctions up to and including suspension or dismissal from the College.

"It is unusual for a student to engage in this type of extreme behavior," Haden wrote in an e-mail message. "We take this very seriously and will not tolerate having our students and staff subjected to this sort of behavior."

Students interviewed said the meeting in the 13th floor common room lasted about five minutes and that attendance was not taken.

They all estimated about 25 to 30 students in attendance out of the approximately 123 living on both floors.

Kellerman said she feels the poor showing means the message may not have reached its intended audience.

"I don't think someone who pooped in a trash can is going to come to a meeting about pooping in a trash can," the acting major said.

Haden said a member of the custodial staff discovered the feces on both occasions.

Haden also said the potential health risk to staff in these situations is great.

The United States National Park Service Web site, for example, warns campers in national parks not to leave their solid waste on the camp sites because contact with human feces can contain bacteria like Salmonella and forms of E. Coli.

Kellerman said this was the reason she did not find the anonymous defecating to be funny.

"I'm disgusted by it," she said. "It's very inconsiderate to the people who have to clean that."

At the meeting, Valdes said anyone with information on the culprit's identity should come see her or one of either floors' RAs.

Students interviewed said RAs have been handling the situation seriously while still acknowledging the problem's humorous side. Residents also had their own theories about the mysterious defecator.

"If it was a random thing that happened once, okay," said Joe Ferreira, a sophomore film major, "but it was twice so you know it's premeditated."

Manager of Custodial Services Nestor Carranza said on the rare occasions the custodial staff has had to clean human waste in an improper place, they do so with a "Disposable Clean-up Kit."

Staff members are trained to use the kit according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

The OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and sets protective standards for workers.

An official OSHA clean-up kit turns liquid spills odorless and solid for easier disposal. It can be used to clean up blood, urine, feces and vomit.

According to the administration's Web site, a kit contains an absorbent powder that can handle 80-100 times its 1.5 oz weight, a pair of latex gloves, two scoops, two black plastic garbage bags, a red bio-hazard bag, a germicidal wipe, two antiseptic disinfectant towelettes and instructions for the use of each item.

Haden said residents have been discussing their concerns individually with their RAs. He said many are upset that this type of behavior has been occurring where they live.

Freshman Madalyn Tomaszewski said she believes the culprit is not a resident of the 13th or 14th floors.

"I think we were framed and it was someone on a different floor, but I'm not making any accusations," the organizational and political communication major said.

Carranza said he feels a prank such as this presents a health issue not only for his staff but also for the residents of that dorm.

Jeff Lustig, a freshman, said he believes the mandatory meeting in the dorms may have only furthered the problem.

"He might be encouraged by all this hype," the marketing communication major said. "If he did it twice he must think its funny. I wouldn't be surprised if he now does it again."

Ferreira, his suite mate, nodded in agreement.

"We'll have to keep our doors locked at night," he said.