Luke Ruchi, a freshman business major from Savannah, expected to have the classic freshman experience in the typical, shoe-box-size dorm, but he didn’t expect to hear the sounds of construction at Oglethorpe House or to be living in a dorm with leaks and sprouting mold.

Despite the recent renovations, complaints of random leaks and mold have been common among O-House residents since the fall semester of 2017.

“In the fall semester, University Housing received several requests from residents of Oglethorpe House to investigate possible mold conditions,” said Stan Jackson, director of student affairs communications and marketing initiatives.

From day one when Ruchi and his three roommates moved into O-House, he said there was a leak in the corner ceiling of their room which would cause a handful of problems and work requests throughout the semester.

Ruchi said maintenance responded the first two times by caulking the leak, but the leak kept coming back, resulting in University Housing moving in large industrial fans to dry up the carpet.

After several work requests, Ruchi said he emailed Housing asking to look into the leak more.

In less than a week, Housing inspected the dorm and came to the conclusion that all four students had to move out of the dorm due to “the need for construction work in the ceiling of their room,” Jackson said.

Toward the end of the semester, Ruchi said he kept getting sick with a sore throat that he thought could have been attributed to the mold.

“Obviously my dad and mom were concerned about my health during all of this,” he said.

Ruchi and his three roommates were moved out of their Oglethorpe dorm room to different residential halls in November because of the leak and the mold the leak was causing. The four students were the only residents moved out of Oglethorpe Hall because of mold.

Dr. Larry Smith, an allergist-immunologist at Allergy Partners of Georgia in Athens, said generally mold allergies are fairly common and occur in 25 to 30 percent of the population.

Smith said patients can contract symptoms such as “nasal congestion, runny nose, itching of the eyes, ears, nose, or throat. Sometimes they can get respiratory problems with wheezing, coughing, asthma type symptoms and bronchitis” from airborne mold spores.

Jackson said nine of the 20 work requests concerning possible mold conditions were “truly mold” that required attention from the housing staff.

“Even in those cases, those molds are the type to which humans are commonly exposed every day, and typically do not pose a health risk to our students,” Jackson said. “Even so, the health and wellbeing of our students is of primary importance to us, and we certainly encourage all of our residents to report any facilities concerns, including what they believe to be mold.”

In a later statement, Jackson said the mold is the “same type of common bathroom mold that occurs sometimes on surfaces that stay damp.”

A light in the shower at Oglethorpe House fell during the first week of classes of the fall 2017 semester. Since then, it has filled with water and acquired a black-colored mold on the inside of the light.Ashlyn Webb/Staff

Alexandra Hammock, a freshman English major from Loganville, said she had bronchitis three weeks during the fall semester that she said could have been attributed from the black-colored mold in her dorm.

Similar to Ruchi’s case, Hammock said her dorm had leaks and mold since the first week she and her roommates moved in. She has continued to have on and off mold problems.

“During our first week of class, the light above our shower fell, and we had a huge hole in our ceiling. We could see black mold growing inside of the interior of the ceiling,” Hammock said.

After three work requests between the first week of school and Thanksgiving break, maintenance responded and fixed the issue, but shortly after, Hammock said the ceiling started leaking again.

“Since we got the light replaced, water has kept dripping from the ceiling again,” Hammock said. “My friend removed the light, and it was filled with water. So we had to rig up a bucket to catch the water.”

Aside from mold being caused by leaks within the bathroom, Hammock said Housing’s custodial services does not consistently clean her bathroom thoroughly, which could contribute to the mold issue in Oglethorpe.

“Shower heads are really moldy. Mold is all over the doors. Bathroom floors are always really, really dirty despite the fact Housing is supposed to cleaning the bathroom weekly,” she said.

Jackson said Housing makes it a priority to respond to all work requests concerning the possibility of mold.

“In all cases, when residents report the possible presence of mold, housing staff addresses it immediately,” Jackson said. “As with all facility concerns, housing staff works hard to be responsive to work requests. If a student feels they are having ongoing mold problems, we encourage them to either submit a work request online through our housing website or contact any staff member who can submit a request on their behalf. “

Jackson said there are no rooms with multiple mold requests at this time.

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