2011-2012: To Say the Least, It's Been Eventful

This year at St. Mary’s has been one of do’s more than don’ts. It has been by far my most involved year on The Point News, not only as Managing Editor, but also as a writer. I’ve highlighted a few of the many events that have encompassed our year, in the hope that those who have been in the dark can see the picture I’ve had the honor of watching unfold.

We remembered Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin, not part of our community but still in students’ hearts. We welcomed Dave Zylak to his official position, and said farewell to Dean Bayless. The alcohol came to The Pub, then left, then came back.

Seniors planned Gala, designed a class gift, and celebrated our two big pre-graduation landmarks. We welcomed back The Nest, but didn’t miss Loni Love.

We said farewell to Norton Dodge.

We discussed Public Safety commissions, and started using our OneCards at St. James. We took a day to discuss what matters most, and continued our talks with Joe on Tuesdays, Dave throughout the year, and fellow students at The Pub on Thursdays.

We welcomed Dean Goldsmith, Blackboard 9, student Judicial Advisors, and sustainability interns. We also welcomed our SGA representatives once they got around to elections, and saw them get impressive work done for all of us.

We discussed College wages, what “living wage” really means, and the consequences and limitations of state budget freezes and admin salary changes.

We celebrated our Seahawks at Hawktoberfests, the CACs, and throughout the year.

We welcomed Regina Curran, and wished her the best at American University.

We planned our campus’ future, planned to make Route 5 safer, and continued sustainability initiatives as best as we could without our Fellow. We even moved Margaret Brent across a road, and stayed up with Joe to watch the whole thing.

We survived fires, earthquakes, a hurricane, mold, hotels, moving on a ship, and bed bugs (for many of us, this one should be longer).

Throughout ’11-’12, we have all seen the best and worst of ourselves, times we could have improved and times we were flawless (or at least good enough).

More importantly, though, I have been able to watch this community expand how much it really cares. More interest groups have formed this year than any other I’ve seen, and they’ve more strongly voiced their reasons for forming in the first place. Students are talking more about what they believe, and finding means to break down barriers of race, gender, and ethnicity. We’re no longer afraid to remember those we don’t know, or speaking our minds about things we do. We throw ourselves out there on stage, on the path and on the patio, and march from Waring Commons to Calvert Hall to show our concern. Each day, we are showing this campus more and more that we care about what St. Mary’s means to ourselves and the outside world.

With financial struggle, state freezes, loss of aid, and increasing tuition, we all have reason to question what is best for everyone, and if we’re really doing what’s right to maintain who we are. We have less to work with, and every decision we make as a community will have a bigger impact. Now, more than ever, is the time to voice our beliefs and concerns, and it’s a relief that our dialogue has stepped up to this need this year. My hope is that when I’m gone after May 12, I can still check out what’s happening on campus and see we’re as opinionated as ever.

It’s not easy to balance the experience and judgment of the administration with the beliefs of a majority student body. We all have opinions and experiences that tell us what is best for the whole, and no one should be forgotten. The only way to make sure of that is for both sides to keep that open dialogue, and hopefully, we can all make it through these difficult times with as few scratches as possible.

Residence Life Compensates Mold Evacuees for Lost Items

Most of the residents who were displaced last semester due to the mold in Caroline and Prince George’s (PG) Halls were able to easily recover all of the belongings they placed in storage. However, some residents have reported missing items that have not yet been found. In light of this situation, the Office of Residence Life has been able to compensate these students for their losses.

Usually, these items were lost after being submitted to storage rooms in Caroline and PG over winter break. Jenna Crutchfield, a first-year, was able to find her missing rugs with the help of the Residence Life staff.

“My RA had come by and wrote down our names [and items] on a ‘lost’ list that was on the second floor of PG. It had been about two weeks and I still had not heard anything,” said Crutchfield. “Finally, an RA told me that she heard they had some lost items in the basement of Caroline and to ask Res Life if they could help. I got so impatient that I went into the Residence Life office asking if I could get into the storage room in the Caroline basement. We made our way down and entered the room with boxes along the walls and some scattered on the floor. But as soon as I walked in, there they were, right there during the entire three-week process.”

While Crutchfield was glad to find her lost items, there is still one part of her ordeal that she does not understand. “My room number was written on the rugs that were wrapped together and taped,” she explained. “In big black bold print, 319 was written on them. There were only two dorms effected by the mold. That means there are only two rooms with the number 319. If you saw that, would you not check with [the residents of] those two rooms?”

Joanne Goldwater, the Director of Residence Life, explained that so many different people helped with simultaneous, multiple moves that it is impossible to place responsibility for the lost items, or the fact that some items were not returned efficiently, on one group or person. “We had a moving company hired by the Physical Plant, Physical Plant workers themselves, students, faculty, Residence Life staff, and Student Activities staff all helping with the move,” said Goldwater.

“The people who were inexperienced or confused about the way we were storing things may have misplaced certain boxes in Room X when they should have gone to Room A, or didn’t notice the markings on boxes. Any unclaimed items were brought to Caroline so there would be one space for people to look for missing items. If the residents do not find their items, they can bring the receipts for their replacement purchases to the Office of Residence Life and we will reimburse the item or we will order it for you. We can’t do this unless the student notifies us of his or her missing items,” said Goldwater

Lena Castro, a first-year, lost two boxes that contained important items like her printer and her desk lamp in the move from the Sea Voyager back into her dorm and took advantage of Residence Life’s offer.

“I returned from winter break to find two of the boxes I had submitted for storage out of an original four outside of my dorm room,” said Castro, “and I wasn’t too concerned at first, because I figured everybody else was still sorting out what was theirs and what wasn’t and that my belongings would eventually show up. I reported my missing items to my RA and I listed my missing boxes on a master list on the second floor of PG.”

“I spoke with residence life several times regarding my missing belongings,” Castro continued, “and they assured me that if they did not turn up by a specified date, then I would be reimbursed for my missing belongings. So I continued searching and checking in with Res Life and there was no sign of my missing belongings so I went ahead and purchased replacements and submitted my receipts of purchase to the Office of Residence Life.”

Goldwater said that this unprecedented event of moving the residents of two full dorms has helped Residence Life prepare for similar events, if they should ever happen.

“A majority of students have been successful with their adjustment back to their dorms, but we have definitely learned lessons and would probably do things differently if something like this happened again,” she explained. “We could have made the situation less frenzied, but I am amazed that it didn’t descend into complete chaos. We [the Residence Life staff] are so appreciative of the outpouring of assistance and support from students, faculty, and staff that helped us when we had this crisis. I think it speaks volumes about what our community is like.”

Sea Voyager Residents To Possibly Receive More Compensation

Starting on January 15 all residents of Caroline (CD) and Prince George (PG) Halls were allowed to return to their previous dormitory rooms after having been displaced for the majority of the fall 2011 semester to various other residences on campus, hotels throughout St. Mary’s County, and the Sea Voyager cruise ship docked in Historic St. Mary’s City.

The first experiences of St. Mary’s life for many first-year students were filled with unpacking, repacking, cramming into new rooms, traveling miles to and from campus, and trying to figure out what was going to happen next and how they would be compensated for it.

President Urgo stated in an all-student email at the beginning of this spring 2012 semester, “Throughout October, November, and December, daily acts of kindness and determination typified the campus and allowed our displaced students to endure upheaval and in the end, prevail over this period of disruption.” Despite this positive view on the situation, many of the previously displaced students are still advocating for more compensation, saying that they have been unfairly treated.

Due to the large number of students on campus who have been affected in one way or another by this most recent outbreak of mold, which range from mostly first-years and sophomores but include even juniors and seniors, it soon became evident that it would be pointless to give every single affected student extra housing credits for next year. “It would eliminate the benefit being offered” and “the remaining 425+ students in CH [Calvert Hall], DD [Dorchester Hall], and QA [Queen Anne Hall] would be unfairly disadvantaged because they were not assigned to a building with mold,” said Director of Residence Life and Associate Dean of Students Joanne Goldwater in an all-student email sent out mid-November 2011.

Therefore it was originally planned that those students that were first affected (all of CD’s First Left hallway, PG’s First Right hallway, PG 224, and CD 112, 115, 116, 117, 118, and 211) would all receive 15 extra housing credits. For all others located in CD and PG it was decided that on Dec. 1 the seniors would be entered to win two non-alcoholic tickets to Senior Gala in May 2012, a townhouse would be raffled off to rising juniors and seniors (one townhouse being offered to CD residents and one to PG residents), and all other residents would earn a chance to win four Waring Commons (WC) suites (two available to CD residents and two to PG residents).

Various students complained about the compensation, pointing out that those that were displaced into forced triples and other on-campus residences were being financially compensated, while those placed on the Sea Voyager were not receiving anything, unless they won their respective raffle. Therefore, Student Government Association (SGA) President Mark Snyder, senior, sat down this past week with Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinksy, Assistant Dean of Students Kelly Schroeder, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Laura Bayless, Goldwater, and Interim Director of Campus Technology Support Services (CTSS) Michael Gass in order to advocate for better compensation on behalf of the affected students.

“We want the people who moved onto the ship to feel like they got something. We don’t want this to have a huge negative impact on everyone else,” said Snyder. As a result, it was proposed by Residence Life at the Jan. 24 SGA meeting to give all students that had been displaced to the Sea Voyager would receive four extra housing credits for the room selection process which begins within a month.

He states that two credits felt like not enough compensation, while anything more than four would leave all those not affected by mold in Calvert, Dorchester, and QA an unfair disadvantage in the upcoming housing selection.

According to Snyder, a large portion of the credit for this new batch of possible compensation should go to Gass, as this proposal would not have happened without his help and the help of his CTSS staff.

“Right now we are just trying to see how people feel about it,” said Snyder, who also stated that he has been having informal conversations with those affected and hopes to have some more formal conversations with others in order to “make sure that this is something everyone is cool with, not just people in PG and Caroline, but in Dorchester, Queen Anne, and Calvert.”

Open Letter to Botzman

THE STORY

In reference to the meeting held by Dr. Botzman on the “luxury liner.”

Dr. Botzman, I understand that this semester has been extremely hard on all of us, but I beg you to please imagine yourself in this situation, as ridiculous as it may sound.

Dr. Botzman, I would like to let you know that your office has mold. So, you need to pack up your office belongings and move them to President Urgo’s house within 12 hours. Don’t worry about getting to work because we have organized for SafeRide to pick you up every morning at 5am, running every 5 hours. I guess you’ll have a head start prepping for that meeting at 8 am since you will have been at work for 3 hours already. Unfortunately while prepping for the presentation in the meeting you realize you don’t have your computer. Well that stinks because the van isn’t going back to Urgo’s until 10am. Good thing this presentation for your meeting isn’t for a grade or anything.

Oh wait! Now that you have settled nicely into Urgo’s house, you are going to need to pack up your stuff again because you’re running up his water bill. But don’t worry! We have a luxury liner waiting for you in historic St. Mary’s City! Be ready to move in at 2 PM… no wait we mean 4 PM…actually you’re just going to have to wait until next Thursday. So while you are waiting to move you can practice packing and unpacking so you’re really good at it when you get to the boat. Don’t worry about getting work done because we are using two of your unpaid work days to help you transition.

Well, now that you’ve made it to the boat, all the way through the woods, down the hill from grandma’s house, you get to check out your new room! You know what’s really exciting? I requested you as my roommate! And don’t worry, there’s plenty of room in our crew cabin! You can sleep on the top bunk, but since you look like you are over 4’2” so you might not fit. Don’t worry though because even if you are uncomfortable, the constant, soothing noise from the generators will lull you right to sleep.

So now as you prepare for work, you pack all of the things that you will need for the day and trudge back up the hill. Once in your office you realize that in your old age, you have forgotten your laptop once again, but this time your colleagues will not accept your excuse for not having all of your materials since the boat is technically within walking distance. So for the second time today, you face the hill.

Now that you have been on the boat for a while it’s time for that yearly financial report and it’s due on Thursday. You are already behind from all the time you spent moving, but the report is still due Thursday. After pulling an all-nighter you receive an email stating that you  need to be moved out of the boat by 4pm , on Thursday. Failure to complete either duty will result in deduction of pay or termination.

While you are sitting in your metal, windowless crew cabin wondering how you will survive the coming days, you find out that your good friend Joanne Goldwater who has been living in the Greens, who had to move only once, is getting monetary compensation.

Wow, it must suck to be you.

A Plan to Compensate Formerly Displaced Students

Over winter break, I was really impressed by an article that Julie Durbin, a sophomore at St. Mary’s, wrote for The Washington Post College-Inc blog. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to read it, Julie discusses why residents of the Sea Voyager were not compensated, either financially or through artificial GPA inflation, because of the impracticality of both proposed solutions. Julie ends the article by saying, “the experience may bring its own reward.” Students who were relocated to the Sea Voyager (and all others that were displaced) dealt with an exceedingly tough semester, so school life should be a breeze when these students don’t have to move multiple times, live in hotels 45 minutes from campus, and finally settle on a cruise ship.

Julie is absolutely correct. Those students who were displaced, especially those students who lived on the Sea Voyager, went through a unique learning experience, and I think it’s about time they got credit for the class in Applied Hard Knocks they took last semester. The proposal I brought to the administration was a housing credit bump given solely to students who lived on the Sea Voyager, valid only for this spring’s round of housing selection; the number of credits we all finally settled on was four.

Why should this four credit bump apply only to students who lived aboard the Sea Voyager? Students who were displaced but remained on campus fell into two different groups: those who have already been compensated financially, and those who moved into empty beds. Those who have been financially compensated have already gotten a bite of the apple by getting a money transfer to their account. Those students who were displaced into an existing vacancy certainly went through a difficult experience, but it was certainly a much difference experience than those who moved to the Sea Voyager.

The next question is two-pronged: for those who would receive the credit, “how much will this help me?” and for those who won’t, “how much will this hurt me?” I sat down with Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater and looked at the effect these credits would have. Four credits will be just enough to give the former Sea Voyager residents a boost in their order in choosing their housing. This means rising juniors would get their second choice in suites instead of their third or fourth, and rising sophomores would get some of the best rooms in PG and Caroline, or if they play their cards right, possibly a suite. These credits will not have the same disproportionate effect as the 15 credits given to juniors who were moved out of the Crescents for mold last year.

Four credits are not enough to blow the remaining rising juniors and rising seniors out of the water — we will not see the Greens dominated by juniors who got these credits. Due to the sheer number of credits accumulated as students progress, the effect of these four credits diminishes as the housing options improve. This could also pose a problem for first years living in Queen Anne, Calvert, and Dorchester. Since the number of credits they apply towards housing is smaller, there was a concern these students might be stuck in the non-air-conditioned residence halls for another year. To help mitigate this problem, Residence Life has agreed to block out fewer rooms for next year’s first years in Caroline and PG, opening up more spots for rising sophomores.

There are certain things a tight-knit, compassionate community does when we see our classmates, our teammates, or our friends struggling: we show love, support, and give what we can. The students of PG and Caroline went through something I couldn’t imagine. As a community, we can all agree we would never want to go through what those seafaring students did, and for those of you who did spend much of the semester at sea, I’m sure none of you would want to relive the whole experience. This compromise acknowledges we sympathize with what the Sea Voyager students went through last semester, and that as a compassionate community we’re willing to give others a leg up in room draw because of the extremely raw deal they got; but most importantly it signals that we’re willing to pay more than lip service to our beliefs.

We keep talking about how we want a tighter community, one that is built on trust, respect, and compassion; this is our opportunity to take one step closer toward that goal.

Letter to the Editor: Displaced Students Lack Compensation

I am writing as a student who has not been directly affected by the mold issues, but who has a number of friends who have had to deal with these problems. I would like to take the time to respond to the recent e-mail regarding the mold remediation housing credits. I feel that the solutions offered by this e-mail do not merely fail to adequately compensate these students for the difficulties they have experienced; the solutions that the Office of Residence Life has proposed are laughable and border on being downright dishonest.

The e-mail notes that the students who were displaced by the mold were promised – and the word “promised” is a direct quote – 15 housing credits in compensation for the inconvenience caused. However, the e-mail then goes on to explain how the original solution proposed is untenable given the large number of students who have been affected. To remediate this, Residence Life has decided to offer the 15 housing credits to ONLY those students in CD 1L and PG 1R who experienced extra inconvenience. The remaining students, in order to be justly compensated, will be entered into drawings for a pair of Senior Gala tickets (seniors only), two townhouses (rising juniors and rising seniors only), and four WC suites (everyone else). If I am interpreting the e-mail correctly, those students who aren’t lucky enough to win something in the drawing will receive NO further compensation.

I think that this solution is wrong. These students have had to deal with an extremely high level of inconvenience and stress associated with the mold. I can attest to this just from my interactions with friends who lived in the affected dorms. They were also promised compensation by the school. For the school to then take away any compensation for the majority of students represents gross dishonesty and ineptitude in dealing with this. Perhaps it is to be expected given the school’s history in dealing with mold-related issues.

In the e-mail, the reasons for this decision are outlined, and I wish to address them individually. First of all, it is noted that “with so many people getting the credits, it would eliminate the benefit being offered.” This is true, but I don’t see why this bars the possibility of alternate compensation. Secondly, “the remaining 425+ students in CH, DD, and QA would be unfairly disadvantaged because they were not assigned to a building with mold.” This should not be an issue here. If the school would like to speak of students being “unfairly disadvantaged,” perhaps they should consult with those students in PG and CD who had to deal with moving out of their housing into hotels, only to move again within a week, all while trying to cope with the stress of a full course load and, for many, of adjusting to being away at school for the first time. Thirdly, “the logistics of trying to coordinate 350 students getting additional credits would be unusually difficult to administer.” Perhaps the school should have thought of this before making promises that it couldn’t keep; this reason is nothing more than a lame cop-out.

If the school feels that the 15 housing credits is no longer a viable solution, I see no reason why alternate compensation cannot be developed. Merely entering students into a raffle is in no way sufficient compensation for the difficulties these students have had to put up with, and I for one feel as though the school should not be let off the hook for making false promises and then failing to adequately compensate students.

In the Resident Handbook there is a section entitled “Resident Rights and Responsibilities.”Listed among these rights are: the right to sleep and relax in your room; read and study in your room, free of interference; have free access to your room or townhouse; have a clean, safe environment in which to live. It seems to me that the school the school has failed to provide all of the above state rights.

In the terms of the Housing Contract, the college agrees to provide “a revocable license to live in the College’s housing subject to the terms and conditions of this contract.” The students living in PG and CD have not in any way violated the terms of their contract, although it would seem that the school has failed to uphold its end. I believe that these students should receive financial compensation totaling all or part of their housing payment for the semester. The school has failed on many fronts in its handling of the mold issue, but I hope that it will not be allowed to fail at fairly compensating all of the students who have been affected by the mold problem.

-Matthew Anthony

Sea Voyager Cruise Ship Gets Mixed Reviews

On Nov. 1, 244 of the displaced residents of the dangerously moldy Caroline and Prince George’s Halls were finally allowed to move aboard their new home: a small cruise ship named the Sea Voyager, docked right outside Historic St. Mary’s City. Some students welcomed the change, while others reported a tough adjustment to life on the boat.

The new “floating dorm” includes a spacious lounge, which contains a baby grand piano, exercise equipment, and The Love Café, an extension of campus grocery and coffee shop The Daily Grind. A separate but equally large study room, in what is usually the ship’s dining room, is also available for students who do not want to trek to the library. The Resident Assistant office is located in what was the ship’s gift shop. Each bedroom is named after a nautical area, such as “Cape Cod” or “Lake Huron.”

According to first-year Jemile Safaraliyeva, “The guest policy is difficult, checking in and out.” Only 294 people are allowed on the Sea Voyager at any one time; given students, faculty, and staff already on the ship, only 28 guests at a time are permitted to board the ship. Public Safety is stationed outside the dock to check residents and guests in and out of the Sea Voyager and keep track of the number of people on board.

Residents faced some unexpected nuisances to boat life. “It’s nice to be on campus, but the crew has safety boat drills two times a day,” said sophomore Sydney Hunter. First-year Jonathan Grossman-Zoha also expressed annoyance with these drills. “The staff uses the intercom in the morning and it wakes me up every day,” he said. “We hear all of it.”

Students had the most issues with the rooming situation on the Sea Voyager. “I have one of the biggest rooms, but others have rooms the size of prison cells,” says Grossman-Zoha. “You can hear every little thing through those walls, making it very hard to fall asleep, no matter what time,” added first-year Willow Smith.

“I like having a private bathroom, but it feels claustrophobic, and I get sea-sick,” said sophomore Lindsey Lepage.  Adding to the bathroom issues, Smith said, “The shower curtain likes to randomly blow in and stick to you.”

The Sea Voyager lacks a full laundry room, so many residents walk to nearby Calvert Hall to do their laundry. “It’s really annoying to share only three sets of washers and dryers among the residents of essentially three residence halls,” said Calvert Hall resident and sophomore Mike Harp.

Other students tried to keep a positive perspective of their new living situation. “We need to remember that this boat wasn’t built to be lived in for long periods of time, usually people are only living here for a week,” said Grossman-Zoha.

“I’ve really gotten to like the boat,” said first-year Andrew Murti. “When compared to a dorm, this is really swanky. I would do it for an extra semester. Walking ten minutes is better than a forty minute bus ride.”

First-year Serra Erbis lived in Waring Commons when she was originally ousted from her dorm, but says “When I found out there was a boat, I left. It sounded really awesome.” Safaraliyeva recognizes the uniqueness of her time on the Sea Voyager. “It’s an experience,” she said. “This is what college is all about, with everything changing so rapidly.”

Boatlife: The Good, the Bad, and the Voyage

I almost forget what it’s like to live in a normal St. Mary’s dorm. For the past three and a half weeks, in case you’ve been anywhere in the world without a local newspaper, I and 350 other students living in both Caroline and Prince George’s Residence Halls have been temporarily trying out some other living quarters due to the mold.

The hotels, at least where I lived at the Holiday Inn in Solomons, were nice but certainly a hassle. The disconnection from campus, a one-way commute anywhere from twenty-five minutes to an hour depending on traffic, and playing the guessing game on when a shuttle would show up got quickly and painfully old.  And of course, the move in general was a bit of a pain and stressful to say the least, especially with almost everything else on campus running on its regular schedule.

As I finally settled into the hotel, I was completely blind-sighted by a bombshell e-mail from President Urgo, which made me feel certain that I was either hallucinating or that someone had clearly hacked his account.

But without a doubt, within the next week, my life was packed up in boxes once again and, this time, shifted to cruise control ready to board the Sea Voyager for the rest of semester.  Some students were excited to live on a boat and some were happy just to be back on campus while others took the opportunity to groan some more about moving.

But I’m not complaining.  Actually, the rest of this might come off as a bit of a thank you note to those involved in planning and executing the Sea Voyager project. And I can honestly say that I love my new temporary home.

As students, we can’t forget that the entire residence life and executive staffs at the College have been working hard and have probably been under more pressure and stress than any of us affected by the move.  They did this for us so that we can maintain a normal (or as normal as possible) college experience during the unfortunate moldy circumstances.

Not only have they been working to accommodate our needs, they’ve added conveniences on board like The Love Café (the ship’s version of The Daily Grind), designated library-type study spaces with printer accessibility, wireless internet, and free laundry services once a week. Being able to brush my teeth and take a shower without shoes on isn’t bad either.

There are some setbacks in the deal like the limited visitors rule including no overnight guests, and the overall process of having to check in and out to enter or exit the boat, but it’s for our safety. And though the showers are tiny and rooms are a little snug, let’s be honest, I’d sleep in a cardboard box to have my view of the St. Mary’s River.

Plus, both the crew of the boat and College staff has been working nonstop at ironing out the creases of the process, and they’re doing a good job.  So on behalf of my fellow floating classmates, or perhaps only those who feel the same way that I do, thanks.  It really does show who we are at St. Mary’s, and is part of the reason why I love this place so much.

Looking back at this semester in future years will be pretty cool, too.  I know I already have my shoebox of pictures and newspaper clippings started.  And I can’t wait to see what further adventures I’m in for in my remaining years here at St. Mary’s.

Students Leave Hotels, Move to Ship

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.

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.