By Holly Gaskill
In response to rumors about black mold in Samuel Morris Hall, outside environmental consultants were hired to test the air and surfaces. According to Gregg Holloway, director of facilities services, the laboratory results showed higher than average mold spores in the air, but no mold on any surfaces.
In a statement to Morris residents, Director of Residence Life Scott Barrett attributed these elevated air levels to the rainy summer, which never allowed the building to dry out. To prevent these levels in the future, Holloway is looking at adding re-heating and dehumidifying systems to all buildings with air conditioning. These changes are expected next summer, unless there is a significant reason to move forward before then.
Concerns about mold were initially raised by a member of cleaning staff who found a black substance on heating, ventilation and air conditioning grilles. Rather than notifying management, the staff member alerted residents directly. While this sparked concern about mold in the building, this black substance was later found to be a combination of dirt and condensation.
"It obviously led for concerns on some people's part that there was this huge problem and that no one was doing anything about it," Holloway said. "Well, that's not even close to being the truth."
As for the health of the hall, the mold spore air levels in Samuel Morris Hall at the time of the test were comparable to those currently outside. These levels are not considered harmful but could cause cold-like symptoms to residents with hypersensitivities to air changes.
Outside of one initial student report, no Morris residents have reported health issues as a result of the air quality. The first student to report sickness because of elevated levels declined to comment on this matter.
Holloway also attributed the current issues at Indiana University (IU) and other schools for drawing out such a frenzy around the situation.
"Well, and I understand parents' concern because IU had a problem with (mold), a big problem, as I understand," Holloway said. "It is not unique by any means."
According to Indiana Daily Student, a group of IU students have filed a class action lawsuit against the Trustees of IU regarding mold in residence halls. Students claimed that the university was slow and unwilling to release documentation of the mold case and the remediation process.
Although the lawsuit is ongoing, all students in the affected residence halls are receiving $3,000 in their bursar accounts.
"I'm sure there are still people that are not going to ever be satisfied with our answer and are going to be suspicious and all that, but there's really no reason to be, in all honesty," Holloway said. "I would have no problem sending my kids over there."
Until re-heating and dehumidifying systems are put in place, Holloway said the cold autumn and winter weather will lower air mold levels and prevent mold from forming.
For confidentiality of the cleaning staff member, Holloway would not comment on the individual who failed to follow protocol with the initial black substance. However, Holloway confirmed the employee is still working at Taylor.
"We're not going to come out and just react to rumors and suggestions without at least investigating things and taking a hard look at it and making sure we understand what the real truth of the situation is," Holloway said. "Hopefully people can understand that, but sometimes they don't, so that's a challenge too, but that's the approach we intend to take every time and we've got protocol for mold, our people are trained on it, and when they don't follow that protocol that can create problems. In this case, it did."