By Josh Wolmer & Samantha Vega-Torres – 1851 Contributors
Students were disappointed to find mold in their dorms on campus, and frustrated by what they claim to be the university’s delayed response to their health concerns and living conditions. The mold is primarily isolated to the suite-style buildings: Forest, Bragdon, and Butterworth. Concerns of mold were first brought up in September, according to a written account by junior graphic design major Sabrina Leblanc, with action not being taken until November.
According to the 2021-22 student handbook, under Residential Facilities, “Residential buildings and student rooms are routinely inspected by members of the Residential Life staff to ensure the health and safety of all residents in the community. Particular attention is paid to the physical condition and cleanliness of rooms…”
Director of Residential Life Scott Lamphere, regarding the statement from the student handbook, said, “All rooms and buildings are prepped for occupancy in August. Residential Life and Facilities staff inspect all rooms in the week prior to students moving in in the fall.” Lamphere also said, “Our Residential Life staff also conduct health and safety inspections of rooms at the beginning of the winter break and again at the start of spring break.”
However, when students noticed the presence of a fungus growing in various spots in their suites, they began to wonder if this was the case. Two students that faced issues with mold early this semester were junior fashion design major Sophia Mark in Butterworth Hall and junior sports communication major and business minor Sam Roberts in Bragdon Hall.
Mark’s roommate found evidence of mold on his mattress prior to move-in and then on his roommate’s backpack this October. When reaching out for their room to be checked further, Mark and her roommate hit a wall. “They didn’t really do anything at first, but then my dad contacted the parent’s association and a bunch of people came to the room and they assured us there was no mold,” Mark said.
“…they should respond the first time a student has a complaint regarding health and a room. That should be their top priority,” said Mark when asked about the mold investigation and removal from her dorm.
In response to student grievances about delayed responses, Lamphere said, “we first and foremost obviously want to engage students directly, but if concerns originate with a parent or if parents ask for follow-up, we are also prompt to reply.”
Roberts alleges the mold found in his room led to different health concerns. “For me personally, I was battling illness on and off for the first three weeks until my parents helped thoroughly clean the room. I felt as if my lungs were clogged making it tougher for me to breathe clearly, I constantly had headaches, sniffles, and on occasion would have eye irritation and itching issues,” Roberts said.
On November 15, the Facilities and Sustainability Management (FSM) Office received air quality test results from an environmental hygienist contracted by SERVPRO. “There were 26 samples taken, and there were only three [samples] that came back with elevated levels of spores in the air,” said Associate Vice President of Administration and Operations Diane Parker.
“Mold is a natural growing organism that grows everywhere. It’s impossible to keep it out, so mold does exist in all the air that we breathe all the time… But there was nothing elevated enough to cause alarm,” Parker said in regard to the other 23 samples.
The office is hopeful students will be able to return to their original suites after another air quality test following a deep clean of the rooms and mold remediation. Director of Communications Ian Meropol said, “all of those students were contacted [November 16] and are working with Residential Life.”
LeBlanc, who initially reported the mold in September, and her suitemates relocated from Forest Hall on November 16, due to the elevated amount of mold spores found in their suite. LeBlanc first reached out about mold on September 24.
Despite receiving an email from Residential Life on October 19 that someone would visit their room to inspect and evaluate the mold, LeBlanc and her suitemates say no one came. “If they had entered, they did not go under the University’s protocol of leaving a maintenance note on the door to alert the students that they had in fact been in the room,” wrote LeBlanc in an account of events compiled by her and her suitemates.
When facilities evaluated their room with outside vendors on November 2, LeBlanc wrote, “There was no communication…they were vague about the work they were doing.”
Parker, Meropol, and Director of Administration and Operations Peter Hayes, all stressed Lasell will be doing their best to help contain the issues going forward and all existing cases will be taken care of within the next couple of weeks.
“We have and are continuing to investigate and follow up on all the complaints and inquiries about mold around our campus…,” said Meropol in response to students’ concerns.
“[The safety and health of students] is the number one priority and it has been before COVID-19 and even more so with COVID-19, and it will remain that way after COVID-19,” Meropol said.
On December 1, President Alexander sent an email to the community with the subject line “Response to Mold in Residence Halls.” In this, he said, “Throughout the fall semester, we have investigated every report of mold we have received. In some cases, our inspection indicated that what students observed was accumulated dirt, dust or wood that had begun to rot. Those judgments do not mean there was an absence of mold, because mold is everywhere. It just means there was not visible evidence of excess mold growth. In other cases, there was visible evidence of mold, and Facilities & Sustainability Management (FSM) personnel were dispatched to clean those areas.”
If there is an issue that needs to be investigated, students should submit a schooldude work order request through the MyLasell website under the university resources section.