Sorority members living in the on-campus Greek row houses discovered mold growing in their closets, showers and their personal belongings at the start of fall semester. The Office of Residence Life has been contacted by numerous sororities regarding the issue; however, the measures taken to resolve the problem have concerned some students.
“If we have 13 sororities, we’ve probably received complaints about the mold from eight or nine of them,” Holmes Browne, the ORL associate director of business operations, said. “We’ve been checking to see if the mold growth is a part of a larger issue.”
ORL believes that high condensation and heavy use of air conditioning units is to blame, but some students believe that the issue may have developed prior to the beginning of the school year. Students are hoping that ORL or the university will take further action to protect their personal belongings and health. ORL was first made aware of the mold problem in mid-September, directly following fall sorority recruitment.
While the students notified ORL of the problem at the beginning of the semester, they suspect the mold has been an issue for much longer. Sophomore nursing major Jennifer Laga first noticed the mold when she moved into her sorority house this past August.
“A bunch of girls also saw it at the start, so we think it may have been here since the end of the last school year,” Laga said. “It became more of a problem a few weeks ago when girls’ shoes started to get moldy and the existing mold continued to grow.”
ORL has taken measures to combat the mold by sending individuals to investigate and remove it. In addition, it’s also educating residents on how to prevent this from becoming a problem in the future, as ORL believes that the frequent opening of doors during sorority recruitment, coupled with the blocking of air conditioning units, is to blame for the problem. ORL doesn’t know what kind of mold has been growing in the Greek Row houses. According to the Environmental Health Coordinator, there are hundreds of different kinds of mold and no conclusive tests have been conducted for what has been found.
With recent moisture and humidity, Browne and others attribute the presence of the mold to frequent use of air conditioning, along with the open doors and windows that are allowing condensation to build inside and mold to grow.
ORL has taken action, but the assistance provided has concerned some of the Greek row residents. Many question if the action taken is sufficient and will remove some of the long-standing problems. ORL sends individuals to clean the mold when it’s initially discovered, and search for the source of water that’s allowing bacteria to grow. Facilities Management recommends immediately cleaning any affected objects and washing them if possible and to keep all personal belongings dry.
“The Office of Residence Life sent out a team, but they just cut off our air conditioning and scraped off and painted over the existing mold. They also don’t reimburse us for what’s been damaged,” Shoshi Warshavsky, a sophomore communication sciences and disorders major, said.
In addition to personal belongings such as shoes and clothing being damaged, the mold issue may be presenting a health problem to its residents. Some of the students living on Greek row have already developed symptoms that they believe are a result of the mold and required assistance from the University Health Center.
“Some girls have been developing rashes since moving in,” Laga said. “A lot of the girls also have really heavy coughs. We don’t know if it directly pertains to the mold, but we think it might be responsible.”
Parents became worried with the condition of the Greek Row houses when several saw the mold in person. These parents decided to take further action by writing letters and emails to ORL explaining their concerns and recommending specific action be taken with hopes of ensuring their children have a safe place to live.
“I emailed several people about the problem,” Trish Sergi, the mother of a Greek row resident, said. “My husband spoke to someone, too. We requested remediation of some kind. As far as I know, most of the girls brought their own dehumidifiers, as did we. We requested they provide more commercial-grade dehumidifiers.”
The dehumidifiers currently in place are known to fill up daily. A normal amount of humidity in a home ranges from 40-50 percent, but the dehumidifiers in Greek row frequently reach as high as 80 percent.
The mold in the hallways and closets of the houses has already been removed by ORL, but residents are concerned about a possible resurfacing due to their suspicions regarding the length of time the mold has been in the houses, and the manners in which it has been removed.
“At this point, we haven’t had to relocate anyone to protect their health,” Browne said. “It’s important to everyone that we’re reacting to the complaints appropriately.”
Contact Connor Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.