A viral post from a University of Louisville student suggests a cycle of mold issues in some of the school’s oldest residence halls has continued.
Bethany Morgan, a freshman, said she first started having issues with mold in her Threlkeld Hall dorm room within a few weeks of moving to campus. Other students on her floor had similar issues, she added, along with bugs and a series of plumbing issues in the hall’s community bathrooms.
“In my room, (mold) has been growing on the window as well as where the air-conditioner sits,” Morgan said in an email to Insider Louisville. “It has grown on shoes, electronics, pillows and decorations in rooms of other residents on my hall.”
Despite multiple “fix-it” reports, talks with hall and housing officials and two custodian visits to clean up mold this semester, Morgan and others on the floor continued to have issues. Tired of being “brushed off” by campus housing, Morgan shared her issues in a now-viral post on Facebook on Oct. 31.
“Those of you who know me know I DO NOT run to Facebook with my problems!” Morgan wrote in the post, which now has over 18,000 shares. “But since the University of Louisville refuses to acknowledge the complaints & problems concerning the living conditions here I feel like I am left with no other choice!”
Tom Hardy, UofL’s director of campus housing, couldn’t address Morgan’s claims specifically because of student privacy rules, but said her particular floor accounted for nearly all of the small number of mold complaints made to housing this semester.
In an interview with Insider, Hardy said housing responded to every report made from the floor this semester within 24 hours, addressing mold, bugs and bathroom issues.
In light of the post, Hardy and other housing officials met with students living on Morgan’s floor Sunday night. They had a “great conversation” and asked for specific concerns in each room, Hardy said.
All issues brought up in the meeting were fixed by the end of Monday, he said. Students living in rooms with issues that won’t be fixed right away will be able to relocate, Hardy said.
Morgan’s post brought out several UofL students and alumni who dealt with mold in the traditional-style halls. In an informal Facebook poll of UofL students and alumni, a little over one-third said they dealt with mold in their dorm.
Some said they got sick after the mold kept coming back. Morgan is one of those students, sometimes missing class because of “excruciating headaches” and other symptoms, she said.
“The only thing I wanted to do was lay in bed but I couldn’t due to the mold right beside me,” Morgan told Insider.
Because Morgan dealt with mold in the past, she said she didn’t see a doctor because she was “able to narrow it down and pinpoint the problem.”
Hardy said he had heard rumors of claims of illness due to mold in residence halls, but has never seen a doctor’s note specifically linking mold to an illness.
Morgan’s situation is latest in a cycle of mold concerns in some of UofL’s oldest residence halls, dating back at least six years. In fall 2012, UofL shut down Miller Hall for a semester to clean for mold. The following year, some Miller Hall residents had to temporarily live in communal study lounges in Threlkeld Hall while their rooms were cleaned for mold.
The issues keep occurring. The dorms that have had mold issues in the past — Miller, Threlkeld and sometimes Unitas Tower — are all some of the oldest residences halls on campus and are aging, Hardy said. The halls have older HVAC technology and plumbing, which are causing issues 50 years later.
Additionally, this semester has been especially rainy, which hasn’t helped stop mold growth, Hardy added.
For years, UofL has toyed with the idea of demolishing or renovating Miller and Threlkeld Halls, both of which hold mainly freshmen. The university recently received bonding authority from the state, giving officials two years to create a timeline to demolish and rebuild Miller and completely renovate Threlkeld. While there isn’t an ETA on when UofL will see new dorms, Hardy said it is “sooner rather than further away.”
In the meantime, Hardy encourages residents to use “common sense” approaches to preventing mold, like not leaving wet towels on wooden chairs. Students should report something as soon as they see it, and then follow up if they don’t hear from housing within 24 hours, Hardy said.
Students living on-campus can alert campus housing to problems with their rooms using a “fix-it” report. Of the hundreds of reports housing has received this semester, only around two dozen were for “substances” or mold, Hardy said. Nearly all of those reports stemmed from Threlkeld Hall.
Outside of residence halls, there were 75 complaints of mold across campus at UofL from August 2017 to August 2018, according to data provided via an open records request.
A little over half of the complaints — 54 percent — were labeled as still being “in progress” at the time of Insider’s request. One, a resident assistant saying there was black mold in a dorm’s AC unit filed in May and requested immediate attention, was still labeled in progress at the end of August.
Morgan estimated that she and her roommate had filed three or four requests this semester, with her floormates bringing the total to around 20. Most of her complaints were made verbally to her resident assistant and hall director, which is part of UofL’s protocol in reporting mold in dorms, she said.
When a student reports mold in their dorm through the fix-it system, someone from housing is supposed to respond within 24 hours, Hardy said. Students are typically encouraged to also mention the issue to a RA or hall official in person to get it looked at.
Someone will inspect the room, cleaning each area of mold with Birex, a hospital-grade bleach solution. When the solution is used on every instance of mold, it typically doesn’t come back, Hardy said. But if a student or a custodian misses an instance of mold, it can return.
An exterminator goes through residence halls once a month to address bug issues, too, Hardy said.
UofL’s housing department doesn’t appear to be making any immediate changes to how it handles mold reports in light of Morgan’s post. Hardy, who has been at UofL for six months, said he is always reviewing housing policies to ensure a good living and learning environment.
Morgan appears to have followed the protocol Hardy described, but claims to continue to have issues as late as Saturday night. Hardy said he wasn’t sure “where the disconnect is, but it is not in the system.”
Monday, Hardy stressed the importance of students reporting issues, saying if you don’t report and “seek other means to get the message out,” UofL may not be able to respond as quickly.