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Mold Returns to Campus: Horan and Alumni Hall Affected

by Joe LiggioSenior Writer

There’s a fungus among us yet again.

Two separate buildings on campus, Horan Hall and Alumni Hall, have been afflicted with mold since the start of the semester, with each situation posing their own unique problems for students and staff to contend with.

Horan Hall had undergone the same situation this time last year, affecting approximately 15 percent of residencies within the building.

This year, freshmen John O’Connor, Peter Lacalamita and Salvatore Schillace were all living together in a fourth floor suite in Horan until mold in their room forced them to relocate to a set of rooms on a different floor in the building.

“When we walked in [on move-in day] we immediately smelled it,” said O’Connor.

The roomates initially noticed the greatest concentration of mold covering the insides of one of their closets. After a few of their parents went to residence life staff to discuss the situation, Physical Plant staff cleaned and painted over the afflicted areas.

“It was fine for a couple of days, then we started getting sick from it,” said O’Connor, who became so ill that he had to take antibiotics.

O’Connor and Lacalamita, who have autoimmune diseases, felt the worst out of the four in the suite.

“I’d wake up in the morning with red eyes,” said Lacalamita.

“I never felt 100 percent, I never felt healthy.” said Schillace.

After repeatedly meeting with Residence Life staff in person, the roommates were initially told that due to a constraint on free space in the hall, only two students from the four-man suite could be relocated to a mold free room, and that two would have to remain. All the while, O’Connor and Lacalamita’s parents were in contact with staff trying to advocate for a solution.

On September 18, the students were informed that a suite had opened up in the building, and they moved in to the new space later that same day. As they were packing up their belongings to bring to the next room, they removed a mirror from the wall and found that mold had covered the back. It had also spread to other items which had to be tossed out altogether.

Since the move, the three have felt healthy once again.

“I feel better now, but I feel like if we were to stay there it could have been a lot worse,” said Lacalamita.

The three also noted how the situation put a damper on their transition into college.

“You wanna feel at home, but we never could, because we tried to stay out of our room as much as possible,” O’Connor.

Charles Clency, Director of Residence Life, explained the proper staff procedure when situations like these arise.

“Once a resident notifies our staff of possible mold in their room, Residence Life’s protocol is to make sure a work order is submitted into Physical Plant to have it inspected,” said Clency in an emailed statement.

He continued.

“Typically, a Physical Plant designee meets a housekeeping supervisor at the designated location within two business days to determine whether or not the mold report has merit. If the staining is deemed to be mildew, our housekeeping staff will clean and prepare the space. If the staining is determined to be mold, the College works with an outside vendor to implement mold remediation.”

Clency also pointed out that what some residents have perceived to be mold is not always the case.

“Residence Life has received multiple complaints about speculated mold, however, the majority of these work orders have been determined to be mildew or required routine cleaning by the residents,” said Clency.

Directly across the hall from O’Connor, Lacalamita and Schillace’s old residence, Freshman Izzy Frazza has had to contend with similar issues in her own suite, after first noticing mold above her shower sometime in September.

“We knew to keep an eye out for it because there’s no ventilation in the Horan bathrooms” said Frazza. “We put in a work order right away, they came and cleaned it and then painted over it. It took them a few days [to arrive] but I also had my mom call so that might have helped as well.”

Like O’Connor, Lacalamita and Schillace, she expressed concern over the possibility of the mold’s return.

“I’m not too confident that [the mold] is not gonna come back, I kind of expect it to come back because it’s happened in other rooms on my floor. I think they’re just trying to cover it up and really focus on their reputation instead of focusing on the safety of their students … It should be talked about, not swept under the rug and painted over.”

As Freshman Vice President, Frazza has been proactive about raising awareness about the issue at Student Government meetings.

“We want open communication about this, for people to be upfront about what’s going on, and we want to know exactly how they’re dealing with the problem,” said Frazza.

While resident students can get shuffled around to different suites to avoid and address potentially toxic mold in their living spaces, when mold infiltrates other campus buildings, such a solution is not always so simple or possible.

Just a short walk from Horan, mold has created a whole other set of problems in Alumni Hall, home to MC’s Kinesiology department and Sports Medicine facilities.

Here the discovery of mold has forced the closure of the first floor of the building, affecting the Galligan Fitness Center and Athletic Training Room located within.

On September 13, an email from Marianne Riley, the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, was sent out to Manhattan athletes to advise them of the issue.

“The lower level of Alumni Hall (visiting team locker room, training room and weight room) will be closed as of today due to environmental issues. The areas will remain closed until further notice,” read the email. “We are making arrangements to relocate offices and activities currently located in those areas and will update you with that information when it becomes available.”

Manhattan athletes have since been relocated to the training room at the Gaelic Park Athletic Center (GPAC), the Kelly Commons Fitness Center and Draddy Gymnasium to continue their strength and conditioning activities, posing an inconvenience to their normal workouts.

Aside from the email to athletes, there has been no widespread, formal announcement of the situation to other students or staff on campus.

Dr. Shawn Ladda, a professor in the Kinesiology department located just one floor above the affected area in Alumni Hall, stated that her department has not received much update on the state of the situation.

“No date has been given about remediation … Hopefully a plan will be communicated soon by the college so we can plan accordingly,” said Ladda.

Senior kinesiology major Sam Szabo learned of the situation earlier than most, as a work study employee in the athletic training room on the first floor.

“As soon as I found out about it, I told my kinesiology classmates and professors, and they knew nothing about it,” said Szabo. “One week, all of the work study students who work with Sports Medicine … were told to report for their hours in the new Gaelic Park Athletic Center training facility. All we were told [was] that the reason we had to move was due to the toxic levels of mold. Of course students rumored on what happened, but when our boss, [Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance] Douglas Straley told us what happened, that’s when we found out how serious the situation really was.”

Szabo and others based out of the building share now share a feeling of uncertainty as to what lies ahead for the lower level of Alumni.

“There are a lot of questions and none of them are answered … We aren’t notified [or] updated on the situation of where we are going to end up in the next week, month or year, and the people that go in these classrooms in Alumni probably know even less than we do.”

One major shared concern stems from the lack of widespread, formal announcement of the problem, and how most awareness of the situation has since relied on word of mouth.

“I feel like it’s not alright to leave students and faculty in the dark … This is a major health concern and therefore should not be taken as lightly as it has been. There is no information given to us. We are the ones paying high fees for the school to help keep our buildings clean, but it seems like the school doesn’t care about the health and well-being of their students,” said Szabo.

Physical Plant did not respond to requests for comment.

Resident students that may need assistance with mold can fill out a work order at manhattan.edu/myhousing

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