All it took was one rodent in a ramshackle academic building to displace an entire department, adding to the piling list of recent complaints to the Benson Building.
After reports of a rat infestation were investigated last week, students' classes were relocated to different academic buildings on campus, said Garnett Stokes, dean of Franklin College of Arts & Sciences, in a phone interview Tuesday. The University's Physical Plant investigated last week and found a rat's path in a hole in a janitor's closet, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Tuesday.
"I think our Physical Plant has really worked very hard to make that place a comfortable place to be. I think that there were so many things that have gone wrong with the building, the staff have not been comfortable in that environment," Stokes told The Red & Black. "The Physical Plant has done everything possible to make sure something doesn't happen again."
Inspectors from the plant did several things to treat the problem, including blocking holes where a rat was found, shampooing and cleaning carpets, as well as treating the building for termites and strengthening ventilation units, Stokes said.
"I feel like the building is inhabitable. It is not an unhealthy building," Ralph Johnson, the associate vice president of the Physical Plant, told the Banner-Herald Monday.
Despite the building's passing inspection, Stokes said students' classes would remain at the new locations to not further disrupt their learning experience. Stokes said that staff also would be temporarily moved until the Institute for Women's Studies could move into its new home in Gilbert Hall in mid-May, once the Georgia Review's office could move into its new location.
As for the Benson Building's future after the department vacates, Stokes said it was not certain whether the University would keep using the facility or demolish it.
Women's Studies Director Chris Cuomo sent an e-mail earlier this week on the department's listserv to make students aware of the situation and to enlist University support.
"Personally, I refuse to work in such a sick building any longer, and I cannot allow staff to work in these conditions," Cuomo wrote, asking students to express their concerns to University Provost Arnett Mace and Stokes about the conditions.
Cuomo said in a phone interview Monday that she had been working with Stokes to come up with a solution to help make the situation more comfortable for students and faculty. Efforts to reach Cuomo by phone Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The rat infestation is one of many problems that have plagued the Benson Building during the past two years. Reports of asbestos, mold and flooding have festerd in the building and some University students continue to complain about conditions.
Although the building passes health inspections, women's studies student Hannah Barfield said she would "absolutely not" want to spend time in Benson again.
"It gets really offensive because UGA is a really respected university, and it's an embarrassment that any academic department would have to dwell in such a place," said Barfield, a junior from Thomasville. "You shouldn't treat any academic department like that."
"This isn't the first time this has happened," said Tobi Collins, a junior English and women's studies major from Leesburg. "I don't want to think the University would put employees in a dangerous health area, so I hope they are correct [about the inspection]."
Meanwhile, some are adjusting to the relocation of their classes.
Barfield's class was moved to the Lamar Dodd School of Art, which she said was inconvenient because it is far away from Benson.
But, Barfield said of her new classroom, "I was in awe. There was no permeating stench, the walls were painted and clean, the desks are new. I was like, 'Wow, is this how everyone else on campus learns?'"