Minor evidence of mold, moisture, and mildew was found in about 100 student rooms in the Quad this past weekend. University administrators said they worked with outside contractors over fall break to address the mold, allowing most residents to return to their rooms by Sunday. However, there are still six rooms under mold remediation, which has forced approximately 10 freshmen to relocate to nearby hotels for a week.
Prior to fall break, 22 Quad dorms were reportedly affected by mold, forcing 11 residents to move to alternate locations. Several also reported feeling sick as a result of the mold.
According to Director of Communications and External Relations for Business Barbara Lea-Kruger, staff from Penn Residential Services discovered the extent of the mold spread during annual Health and Safety checks of the residential system over fall break. Most of the rooms that initially reported issues with mold were in Ware College House, but during the check, dorm rooms across the Quad were found to have evidence of mold.
On Sunday, all Quad residents received an email explaining the results of the inspection. “This year has been one of the wettest on record in terms of inches of rainfall and as a historic building, the Quad is more vulnerable to this type of occurrence,” said the email, which was signed by Executive Director of Business Services Douglas Berger and Executive Director of Operations and Maintenance at Facilities and Real Estate Services Faramarz Vakilizadeh.
On top of removing the mold, Residential Services cleared gutters and patched leaks in an effort to prevent the moisture from returning, Lea-Kruger said. Despite this, some students have continued to find evidence of mold in their rooms.
Wharton freshman Niva Patel, who was temporarily relocated for two weeks earlier this semester due to mold in her dorm, received an email on Sunday, Oct. 7 informing her that the mold in her room with roommate and Wharton freshman Eliza Thaler had been successfully removed over the break.
But when the students returned to campus this week, they found that there were still traces of mold on the wall. They also found mold on their furniture, shoes, and clothes, Patel said.
After reporting the problem, they were told that Residential Services "would need some more time to do construction on the room and they would need to replace our furniture and they’re going to reimburse us for anything that got damaged." Patel and Thaler have since been temporarily relocated to the Inn at Penn.
“They’re going to wash all of our clothes because it was exposed to a lot of mold and they’re going to replace our bedding, so this time it definitely was different because they’re very understanding and don’t want us to have to deal with this again," Patel said.
Haley Stein, a College freshman and resident of Lippincott building in Fisher-Hassenfeld, is also among the students who have been affected by the mold. Stein said she and her roommate, College freshman Ari Stonberg, first found and reported mold in their room the Monday before fall break.
“The mold was growing in our ceiling, so, if you looked up, the ceiling was like discolored in certain places,” Stein said. “So once they established there was mold in the ceiling and they had to remove it, they offered to move us to a temporary housing situation before fall break.”
To mitigate the mold and compensate Stein and Stonberg for damages, Residential Services replaced the carpet in their room and offered to clean their mold-covered shoes and reimburse the residents for damaged belongings. The costs of the mold, moisture, and mildew remediation will be reported to the University’s environmental liability insurance carrier and coverage is expected, Lea-Kruger said.
“They sent us an email every single day over break about what they had done that day, which I thought was really impressive because we weren’t there to see it, so they wanted us to know,” Stein said. "It was an overall unpleasant experience, but the school handled it very well."
Lea-Kruger said the mold found in the Quad is “not typically harmful,” adding that Penn Environmental Health and Safety inspected all rooms in the Quad and found no evidence of unhealthy air quality.
However, multiple students have reported feeling sick in association with the mold. Student Health Services Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen also confirmed that there have been recent cases of students experiencing medical symptoms because of their exposure to the mold.