Nearly two dozen rooms in the Quad have experienced serious mold issues, forcing students to temporarily relocate and prompting some health concerns.
As of Oct. 2, Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services has identified water damage and mold in the Quad in 22 student rooms, in one hallway, and in one faculty apartment, wrote Faramarz Vakilizadeh, Executive Director of Operations and Maintenance at FRES, in an email statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Work in 14 of the 22 damaged rooms was completed as of Tuesday.
Eleven students have had to be temporarily relocated to other rooms on campus or to nearby hotels due to reported mold issues this semester, wrote Executive Director for Business Services Douglas Berger, who oversees Residential Services, in an emailed statement.
Seven students are still residing in alternative locations while their rooms undergo further work as of Tuesday. Many of the students who have experienced high rates of mold growth are in Ware College House hallway E.F. Smith.
Engineering and Wharton freshman and E.F. Smith 3rd floor resident Akash Jain reported black mold forming in the common room and bathroom in the hall, in addition to dorm rooms.
College freshman and E.F. Smith 3rd floor resident Samantha Pancoe also said she found black mold spreading out from her room through the entire hallway. She added that the bathroom mold formed overnight and began dripping yellow liquid after the mold appeared in the dorm rooms.
“When we got to school [during move-in], we were like, 'Our rooms are really weirdly moist,' and then you’d get into bed and your bed would just be wet,” said Pancoe, who added that the mold got progressively worse over time.
Jain said he and other hallmates began to feel sick because of the mold. Students in the hall were coughing more inside their rooms, so he said they avoided the indoors as much as possible.
Student Health Services Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen said there have been recent cases of students experiencing medical symptoms because of their exposure to the mold.
“We haven’t had a huge number of people coming to Student Health because of it,” Nguyen said. “I know we have had some.”
Nguyen explained that exposure to mold can trigger an allergic response in some patients, causing symptoms like itchy eyes or throat, scaly skin, and coughing. He was unable, however, to comment on individual cases.
All cases of mold have been confined to the Quad, which Berger described as a historic building that presents particular challenges in humid weather conditions. He and Vakilizadeh also attributed the “uptick in the number of reported mold cases this year” to an especially hot and wet summer in Philadelphia.
“Although at this point there is no timeline to complete all the repairs, good progress has been made to remedy the problem in the majority of the rooms,” said Vakilizadeh, who also mentioned that FRES was working on finding roofing, masonry, and restoration contractors to fix water damage issues in the Quad.
For Wharton freshman and 3rd floor resident of Coxe in Ware Niva Patel, the mold in her room was so severe that she and her roommate, Wharton freshman Eliza Thaler, were relocated to single dorms in the Quad for almost two weeks. Coxe was also the location of a ceiling collapse earlier this month.
“We thought it was unsafe and every time we walked into the room, you couldn’t stop coughing because the air was really bad and so it was definitely causing us health issues,” Patel said. “There was green and dark colored stuff all over our white walls which is pretty noticeable, and then we just realized that it kept spreading.”
Like other students, Patel filed a mold complaint immediately and maintenance arrived a few days later. Patel and Thaler, however, were not given temporary rooms until two days later, so Patel slept in a friend’s dorm for two nights.
“When room maintenance reaches a level where a re-assignment is necessary, we take a number of steps to support the affected students, such [as] providing ongoing communications as to the status of the room repairs and working with College Houses and Academic Services to address additional needs (academic, social, etc.),” wrote Berger in the email.
Though given an alternative room, Patel said she was never given any timeline or estimation of how long she would be living in the temporary location. Patel said her roommate was kicked out of her temporary room about four days before their original dorm was ready, so Patel and her roommate stayed in Patel’s temporary single for the final four nights of their relocation.
“It was just a lot of major problems that were inconvenient to deal with our first few weeks at Penn,” Patel said.
Residential Services is currently conducting its routine Health and Safety Inspections, which include inspections for mold, Berger said.
Built in 1895, the Quad was last renovated in 1999 with the addition of air-conditioning, historic restoration, landscaping in the courtyards, and the replacement of every bathroom. The University announced recently, however, that they've begun searching for an architect to plan for the renovation of the Quad. It will be the next dorm to undergo a major renovation. The start and finish date has yet to be announced, but Penn has estimated construction to be underway in 5-7 years.
News Editor Madeleine Lamon contributed reporting.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.