On Oct. 25, President Urgo announced in an all-student email the college rented a cruise ship called the Sea Voyager to house 244 students displaced by mold in the Prince George and Caroline residence halls.
The ship arrived at the Dove dock in Historic St. Mary’s City on Oct. 30 and students were originally going to move into the ship on Monday, Oct. 31. However, at a press conference on Monday President Urgo said students could not move into the ship until the next day due to a problem securing the boat to the dock, which prevented the final safety tests.
The displaced students moving into the ship are currently living in three hotels in California and Solomons, MD. Urgo made the decision to rent the ship after students moved to the hotels saying, “[hotel] challenges threatened to dilute the residential experience of St. Mary’s. And even more, would soon violate the every mission of our college.” He added, “The Sea Voyager restores our campus community.”
The idea to rent the ship came from Dan Plesch, a 2004 graduate and sailor. Plesch saw the ship was for sale and moving from Maine to Virgina. He suggested the college could rent the ship during the sale process.
Urgo saw the idea as an innovate solution and unique fitting to the college community given the importance of St. Mary’s river. He said, “[acknowledging] the source of so much of this College’s spirit. This wonderful body of water: the historic byway for seekers of truth and knowledge, through refuge and through study.”
Students were displaced after the college determined the mold in the two affected dorms was systematic and not sporadic. The college consulted with Compliance Environmental, Inc., an environmental and industrial hygiene consulting firm, and Dr. Hung Cheung, an occupational physician, and decided to do extensive mold remediation, according to Charles “Chip” Jackson, Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities.
“The mold is primarily located above ceilings and within enclosed conditioning equipment,” said Jackson. The College does not yet know the exact cause of the mold beyond condensation from the heating and cooling pipes. “The insulation failed to prevent condensation from forming and causing mold, […] we are committed to finding the root cause,” he said.
Jackson also said the cost for mold remediation in both residence halls will cost approximately $1 million from the college’s physical plant fund. The cost for temporary housing, including the ship and hotels, will be an additional $1.5 million from the college’s contingency fund. “This event will not impact next year or subsequent years’ tuition,” said Jackson. “Our students’ safety and well-being is foremost in our minds,” he added.
Most students are excited by the ship but some are still concerned about the underlying problem. “Since they found the mold, they have done a good job but my hall reported [mold] on day two of the semester and no action was taken until day 30. The problem should have been dealt with this summer,” said sophomore Sami Keyani, originally a resident of Caroline first left.
According to Urgo, the college has not given any compensation to the displaced students beyond reimbursement for expenses. Displaced students will be given priority for housing next year.
During their stay on the ship, students will have TV, wifi and a 24-hour study room. The ship’s crew will also clean students’ rooms.
As for security, Public Safety will be be patrolling the shore around the ship from 7 p.m. until 7 p.m. and the ship’s crew will handle security on the ship 24 hours a day. While non-residents will be allowed on the ship, only 290 people will be allowed on at any time and everyone, residents and non-residents, will be required to sign in to gain access to the ship, according to Jackson.
The ship is also required to comply with all state and federal laws governing a ship at sea. For instance, one of every ten bags brought on board must be search to comply with Homeland Security regulations.
Students will reside on the ship until the end of the semester.