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.

Caroline Hall: the New Dorch?

Living in a dorm is rough. The close proximity to your entire floor, the communal bathroom, and the constant parade of partygoers all throughout the week lead to the ever growing depiction of dorms in an unfavorable manner. The dorms here at St. Mary’s are hardly terrible considering the stories of dorm life I have heard from friends attending larger universities; however, it seems that lately dorm life has become harder and harder to deal with.

As a sophomore resident of Caroline, I can honestly say that I cannot wait for next year when I will be out of the dorms and into a suite. While I am very clear on the fact that no matter where I live on campus there are always going to be problems, I have found that living in a dorm this year has been a much more trying experience than I had last year.

Caroline has been experiencing what I understand to be a ton of vandalism this year. Personally, I have not seen any, although, I was told during a mandatory dorm meeting that the vandalism has reached Dorchestor levels. This may have something to do with the fact that Caroline is the first dorm you reach after coming back from North Campus.

Makes sense that after a little to much partying, some folks would think that destroying stuff would be awesome…p.s. it’s not. Destroying property in the name of being obnoxious is not cool. In fact, it is really annoying to those of us who reside in Caroline, and if you live in Caroline and are destroying stuff, you are possibly going to be the cause of the rest of us having to monetarily pay for your bone headedness.

It is completely understandable and justifiable that the school would threaten to have residents pay for excessive vandalism as a way to try and nip the rowdy behavior before it goes even more out of control; however, I find it completely unfair that the rest of us may have to pay for restoration of a dorm that is in all honesty kind of shoddy.

For the entire year Caroline residents have experienced one problem after another, from vandalism to washer leakage. It seems that the second that one problem is resolved another one springs up, and usually the first problem comes back around after we have received an email that it has been “fixed”.

One of the main problems all year has been the hot water. Personally, I am not a fan of the ice cold shower. It’s a good wake up call, but I think I’d rather just drink coffee. Unless you take a shower at the crack of dawn or after midnight, odds are that you are not going to get hot water.

Frankly, this seems a little ridiculous to me. I understand that there are so many more important problems on campus that need to be addressed as opposed to the fact that I can’t take a hot shower, but the fact that this has been a problem the entire year says to me that the school is happy to take my money but when it comes to actually mantaining the dormitory, they could care less.

Speaking about bathrooms, Caroline’s second right has been missing the shower ceiling tiles since the second week of school. This has lead to a whole new level of creepy when taking a shower. Now we freeze and look warily at the vents hanging openly above our heads.

Also while I am on my bathroom rant, having hand soap available would also be great. (We once ran out for the entire week. My roommate nearly revolted.)

Though it may sound like it, I in no way blame housekeeping or maintenance for these problems. In fact, we should all praise them for attempting to keep up with the constant mess that awaits them and thank them for all of their hard work. What the problem seems to be is a lack of communication and seemingly a lack of regard on both the part of the Residents and Residence Life. We all need to come together and address the ever growing issues that have begun to plague dorm life.

The thing that prompted me to write this was not the issues- though they played a large factor- but the fact that the residents of Caroline were threatened with extra fees if the vandalism persists. When I have hot water and a window that does not let in gale force drafts, I will see the need to charge residents for disrespect of the dorm. As of now, I am kind of angered that the school has the audacity to charge residents more when so many things are falling apart.

Didn’t Caroline just get an outside overhaul? Perhaps, instead of spending that kind of money – and I have no idea how much it was- to make the front and the back of Caroline pretty, the money should have been spent to fix up the inside and provide new windows for ALL of the residents.

Caroline Hall in Disrepair With Unreliable Utilities

Caroline Hall has begun to show signs of disrepair, in bathrooms as well as common areas like hallways, the laundry room, and the kitchen.  (Photo by Lara Southgate)
Caroline Hall has begun to show signs of disrepair, in bathrooms as well as common areas like hallways, the laundry room, and the kitchen. (Photo by Lara Southgate)
Many complaints have been filed about the condition of Caroline Hall, one of three co-ed dormitories on the St. Mary’s campus. According to Caroline residents, problems with hot water and the physical appearance of the building have been apparent for several months, and have not improved.

Erika Schmitt, a sophomore and a Caroline resident, explained that the water temperatures of the showers on her floor are unpredictable. She said, “Hot water for the showers is an on and off thing…at eight in the morning it’s hot, but later in the day it’s not.” She also said that “in the shower last semester, one of the ceiling tiles was missing…it was kind of weird.”

Despite a recent repair of one of the showers in Caroline by the maintenance staff, issues with the dorm still remain. Sophomore Adrienne Gordon a resident of Caroline, explained that she “ask[s] people how the water temperatures in the showers are every evening” to prepare herself for the possible rush of cold water.

In addition to complaints regarding shower water temperatures, several students have complained about the lack of hallway etiquette late in the evening and the poor state of the laundry room. According to Schmitt, “at two in the morning people run and scream down the hallways,” which disrupts studying and sleep.

Paul Christenson, a first-year and Caroline resident, stated that although he thought that many people were “over exaggerating the severity of the problem[s],” several improvements could be made to the laundry room, as one of the machines “leaks badly when used, [which puts] probably an inch of water right in front of the driers.” Also, “the microwave actually has a hole in the bottom of it now, so it can no longer be used, as there are radiation concerns.”

Despite recent repairs to individual shower stalls within the last three months and repairs to the boiler last summer, Caroline’s water issues and poor laundry room condition are still problems. According to Gordon, “Caroline Resident Assistants have put in work orders, but repairs have not yet been done,” and that despite the issues with the microwave and laundry room, “the biggest issue is with the inconsistent hot water.”

Even with the condition of Caroline, however, Schmitt expressed that she “like[s] the location and people of Caroline.” Christenson explained that although Caroline seems to be in bad shape, “the school should be primarily concerned with Calvert; [it] gets complained about more than anywhere on campus.”

Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater could not be reached for comment.