Mold Forces Students to Move Out of Dorms

UPDATE WEDNESDAY, OCT. 19 9:23 p.m.: In an email to students, Goldwater and Jackson report that test conducted yesterday show the third floors of Prince George and Caroline Halls are not safe for students. Students residing in those halls will be required to move as well. 159 students in addition to the 191 students already being moved must leave.

The email also asks residents of four-person townhouses willing to take on an additional person in exchange for compensation should contact Goldwater (jagoldwater@smcm.edu)


CORRECTION TUESDAY, OCT. 18 8:28 p.m.: Shuttles will be available until 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday, not 2 p.m. as originally reported.


UPDATE TUESDAY, OCT. 18 6:38 p.m.: Students being moved off-campus will be staying at [Removed for safety concerns] in California, MD, according to Kelly Schroeder, Assistant Dean of Students. Schroeder and the Student Activities office has been tasked with coordinating transportation for the 100+ students who will be moving to the two hotels.

Students may move as soon as Wednesday Oct, 19. and all students must leave the first and second floors of Caroline and Prince George dorms by Friday Oct. 21.  “Students may return on Saturday to pack belongings. Impacting student’s academic schedule as little as possible is important for us,” she said. Schroeder also said the college is planning for students to be dislocated for 4-6 weeks.

“We will be running continuous service between campus and the hotels Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to midnight and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.,” said Schroeder. She added that students using personal cars will be compensated for gas.

The transportation will include campus vans and a coach bus. The use of campus vans will impact clubs ability to use the vans including SafeRide. During the period of dislocation, SafeRide will run with only one van.

President Urgo informed parents via email today of the situation saying, “We now have no choice but to relocate students in order to protect their health and well-being. […] I sincerely regret the inconvenience students will experience.” The email also included a link to a new page of the Residence Life website where future updates will be posted. Schroeder said those answering phones are being given detailed information and have been told to direct calls regarding the mold and move out to one of the key contact people.


CORRECTION TUESDAY, OCT. 18 3:22 p.m.: Students will not be housed at the Days Inn as previously reported. The College has yet to release the name or names of hotels where students will be housed.


UPDATE: On Monday, Oct. 17, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater and Associate Vice President of Facilities, Charles Jackson, informed students in both the first and second floors of the Caroline and Prince George dorms they will be moving out in the next few days while two mold remediation teams work to remove the mold. “We don’t have an exact time frame but we are making arrangements for a month,” said Goldwater.

Samples returned after last week’s cleaning still show elevated levels of mold. “That cleaning was not as effective as it should have been. All of the experts are slightly baffled,” said Jackson. The decision to move students out was made today after consulting with an Occupational Physician who told the college that while an emergency evacuation is not required, the college should move students out sooner rather than later, according to Jackson.

Students will be moved into all vacancies on-campus including converting some doubles into triples and study rooms into quads. The remainder of students will be housed off-campus at the Days Inn. Of the 191 students being moved, approximately 110 will be moved to the off-campus hotel, according to Jackson.

Goldwater said Residence Life will work to accommodate all requests emailed to Goldwater but by tomorrow afternoon they will begin randomly assigning students to all available housing. Students with cars on-campus will get priority in the Days Inn, though Goldwater said there will be a shuttle service available.

Goldwater and Jackson could not answer questions about compensation. They will be meeting with President Urgo and Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman tomorrow to discuss proper compensation for hardship and gas.


On Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 8:00 p.m., students residing in Caroline Hall and Prince George’s Hall met with Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater, Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations Derek Thornton, and Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky to discuss the lingering mold problems in those residence halls.

Last year, students in the Townhouse Greens and Townhouse Crescents also experienced mold problems in their homes. The pervasiveness of the mold “…has been mystifying to us,” said Goldwater. The mold problems in Caroline, especially in the left hall on the first floor, prompted the school to hire an environmental consultant. Upon further inspection, the consultant found the metal grids above the ceiling tiles (between the first and second floors) are rusted indicating moisture above the ceiling tiles.

“We had to get a handle on this,” said Goldwater. Goldwater and Thornton mentioned that Dorchester and Queen Anne’s Halls were checked by the consultant and not much rust was found there. Thornton said that pursuant to the environmental consultant’s recommendations, the school was hiring a building envelope contractor to analyze air and water filtration issues within Caroline and Prince George’s Halls.

“We needed to take a second look [at the mold and] we think it’s important to get it right for [the students],” said Thornton.

Thornton said the envelope contractor will look for drainage, cracks in concrete slabs (which may allow water infiltration), and what moisture is causing the rust. “[We] need to do air cleaning with air scrubbers … they exchange the air,” said Thornton when discussing courses of action to clean the mold.

Additionally, the environmental consultant recommended: 1. re-clean areas where mold counts have been elevated; 2. vacuum the upper side of the ceiling tiles and use air scrubbers; 3. install an air exchange system in the halls; and 4. obtain additional training on mold remediation, response, and foundational moisture issues.

Goldwater said some of the issues stem from “foundation problems” and that likely “it’s been brewing up there for a while.” She said the identification of these severe mold issues has arisen from the hurricane and increased student awareness of mold.

Based on the recommendations of the consultant, Goldwater said all affected rooms will need to be re-cleaned. Contract cleaners will be cleaning all walls, floors, and furniture and will vacuum the space above the ceiling tiles. In order for this to happen, affected students were required to have their rooms packed up and emptied by the night of Friday, Oct. 7.

The school hired Precision Movers to assist with the packing and transporting of students’ belongings to and from the school’s storage space off of Mattapany Road. Physical Plant provided boxes to all affected students to assist with their packing. Students who could not leave campus for fall break were provided temporary housing.

Goldwater and Thornton said cleaning, air scrubbing, and air testing should be completed by Monday, Oct. 10 allowing students to return to their rooms on Tuesday late afternoon or evening. The results of the air sample testing will be shared with affected students on Wednesday, Oct. 12, or Thursday, Oct. 13 (whenever the results arrive).

Additionally, a new air exchange system, new one inch pipe insulation (in place of the current half inch insulation), and foundation repairs (around Caroline, Dorchester, and Queen Anne’s Halls) are projected to be completed throughout the year.

“I don’t know how to say I’m sorry more ways than to say I’m sorry,” said Goldwater when expressing her apologies to students over the inconvenience and existence of persistent mold issues.

The Environmental Hazards Services Laboratories conducted the air sampling of affected dormitory rooms and found the penicillium and aspergillus species of mold. Linda Wallace, Director of Health Services and a registered nurse, said while most molds are not harmful to human health, “…the problem comes when you get an overgrowth.”

Although, “[the mold species] don’t pose a severe health risk” nor are life-threatening, mold can create health issues for individuals with respiratory problems (such as asthma and allergies) or who are immune-system-compromised said Wallace and confirmed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Wallace said mold-sensitive individuals may experience itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, and in asthma prone individuals, wheezing and cough. If skin contact with some mold species occurs, rashes, hives, or lesions may develop.

Wallace re-assuredly mentioned that these symptoms and side-effects should be minimal (and possibly absent) in a healthy population. She also said there very few, if any, long term health effects of mold, except for possible acute respiratory syndromes in extremely susceptible individuals.

“Making sure [the students] put the vent fan on … reducing moisture … [and] general good housekeeping,” were some tips Wallace provided to help students prevent mold growth. If students exhibit side-effects of mold, Wallace suggested anti-histamines, nasal decongestants, and nasal saline washes as medical remedies to discomfort and ill-health.

Wallace also cautioned students with allergies should be especially careful with foodstuffs and leaving food out and unsealed as it can easily and quickly grow mold. “If it’s green and fuzzy, don’t eat it,” said Wallace.

Some students of Caroline first left hallway were upset and displeased with the entire situation. Sophomore Sami Keyani and residence of Caroline first left hallway said, “[my] reaction to the mold was disgust … [though] the real reaction was [to] the school’s response.”

Keyani said the school was “slow” and that he, his roommate, and many of his hall-mates sent in maintenance requests related to mold within the first few days of moving in. “This should have been [done] on day 5 instead of day 30 … we are very upset [and] my whole hallway is sick,” Keyani said.

Sophomore Michael Pyle and residents of Caroline first left hallway said he was upset and disappointed “about the slow reaction of the school.” Pyle felt the school “tried to act like [the mold] wasn’t a problem.”

“I’m just curious how they’re allocating resources that they can’t help students in one hall … we complained [and] identified the problem,” Pyle said.

As compensation for the mold problems, affected students are being given 15 credits towards housing Keyani said. “Again, I think [the school] handled it very poorly … [and] I don’t think [the 15 credits are] nearly enough,” Keyani said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *