Pick Your Poison

Everyday life can be hazardous at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.  According to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, “in at least three buildings, faculty members have for years complained about mold, water damage, humidity, climate control, asbestos, and radon.”

Annoying as these problems may be, one must look elsewhere for examples of truly harrowing environmental anguish in higher education.  Consider the following:

Room 232, Hillerman Hall, University of Arizona.  A 30-seat classroom used primarily for English courses, it is popularly known as The Scorpion Den.  Hundreds of these predatory arachnids scurry across the floor of 232 throughout the day and evening, stinging students’ exposed feet, ankles, and lower legs with abandon. 

According  to University Facilities Director Terrance “Tex” Turnbull, “we’ve been trying to get rid of the dang things for the past 17 years.  We’ve sprayed ’em with pesticides, smashed ’em with hammers,  and looped tiny lassos around their necks — nothing has worked.  We tell the students taking a class in that room to wear thick socks, hiking boots, and long pants, but do these kids listen?  Hell, no.  Most of them still show up in flip-flops and shorts.

“You know what’s interesting, though?  Last semester an evening course called ‘Post-Modernist Discourse’ was offered in that room, and the morning after the first class session, the room was filled with dead scorpions.  Some of them left suicide notes.  It’s the damnedest thing.  We’re looking into it.”

Wizmer Dining Hall, Middlebury College (Vermont).  On the third Wednesday of every month, the dinner menu features Poison Ivy Salad.  “It’s a school tradition,” says head chef Jacques Sternaux.  “There is no such thing as a toxic plant, only toxic attitudes toward stigmatized  plants.  Our organic, free-range poison ivy has more Vitamin A and K than raw spinach.”

Poison Ivy Salad is served with a fork and an EpiPen, the latter being useful for reducing the itching and potentially fatal swelling of the throat that can accompany anaphylactic shock.  The college’s health center reports that most freshmen who survive their first year at Middlebury develop an immunity not only to poison ivy, but also to rattlesnake venom and poison dart frogs.

Satan’s Chapel, University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana).  This small chapel on the southwest edge of campus has been taken over by Lucifer, according to the University’s Chaplain, Reverend Hansen O’Feeney.  “Students and faculty who worship there become infected by the spirit of the Evil One and are sucked into the Underworld.  Weeks later they emerge from the toilets of the Business School as hedge fund managers.  We closed the chapel in 2014, but re-opened it in 2017 due to popular demand.  At this point we’re at a loss regarding how to proceed.  Over 35% of our alumni donations last year were specifically earmarked for the chapel.”

Kutztown, count your blessings.