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Students Back Suspended Custodians Who Ratted On Roaches

November 21, 1985

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ More than 50 Brigham Young University students chanting, ″save the roach revealers 3/8″ marched on a cafeteria Wednesday to support 12 student custodians who had been punished for complaining about roaches.

Forty-five law students, including one dressed as a yellow, eight-legged bug, marched a few hundred yards from the law school building to the Cougareat cafeteria in the Wilkinson Center, and were joined by others on the way.

Jeff Peatross, who wore the bug outfit, ordered ″rocky roach″ ice cream from the cafeteria’s ice-cream bar.

Mary Alice Campbell, editor of The Daily Universe student newspaper, said the paper’s offices had received 27 letters, 23 of which support the students. The paper also has had a steady flow of telephone calls and visitors siding with the student workers, she said.

The workers were reprimanded and placed on employment probation after the Universe printed a letter last week describing how they killed 67 cockroaches in the dining area during a 15-minute period.

A university spokesman said Wednesday that reprimands were removed from the files of five students who later apologized to BYU officials. The spokesman, Brent Harker, said the others would have an opportunity to have the letters removed if they, too, apologize.

″There will be no permanent mark on their careers,″ said Harker. ″I didn’t think anybody’s job was going to be lost over this.″

Officials from the Mormon Church-owned university contend the entire incident has been blown out of proportion.

″The fact that we have cockroaches is not unusual,″ Harker said. ″We’re inspected three times a year and we have a clean bill of health. Employees are reprimanded every day. That’s not unusual.″

The students first told their immediate supervisor - also a student - about the cockroaches, and pesticide was sprayed, Harker said.

″That drove the cockroaches out of their hiding places, and the next night they saw more,″ he said.

Harker said the students then drafted their letter to the editor without showing it to university officials.

The supervisors felt that ″going to the Universe and making this public was an act of insubordination,″ he said.

″Everybody has a right to free speech, but ... they were not forced to go to the Universe and express themselves. They had full freedom to go to their supervisors directly.″

As for Wednesday’s marchers, Harker said the university planned no action against them.

″I think it’s time for everybody to sit back and have a laugh and chalk it up to some students having fun,″ he said.

Bob Dillenbeck, assistant supervisor of the city-county environmental health department, said roaches occasionally turn up in dining areas, ″no matter how clean″ they are kept. He said roaches pose no health threat at the school, the nation’s largest private university.

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