Rattlers find themselves sick of dorm life


On Monday Nov. 1, Andre Bridges, an 18-year-old education student from D.C., began feeling sick and took on a disturbing cough.

“I didn’t know where the cough was coming from,” said Bridges.

He knew, however, some time before there was a leak in his Palmetto North bathroom, where the water would run from the shower to the kitchen. The carpet stayed wet well after the plumbers had left and Bridges and his roommates soon began to notice mold nesting on its surface.

Seeing the mold and noting his persistent cough, he visited the hospital. He was diagnosed with pulmonary bronchospasm, a serious lung conditon characterized by a severe cough and can be caused by many factors, including respiratory infection.

According to Tanya Tatum, Director of the FAMU Student Health Services, health complications stemming from mold “depend on the individual student” and “where the mold is coming from.”

“I’ve never had a respiratory problem ever in my life,” said Sharell McDowning, 19, from Baltimore.

McDowning said she contracted a bad case of bronchitis her freshman year as a result of the mildew that covered the vent in her Paddyfote dorm room. The psychology student had symptoms that ranged from itchy eyes to a disturbing, choking cough and was ordered by the doctor to wear an air-ventilator mask for a prescribed period.

McDowning claimed the mildew covering the vent was so intrusive it needed to be replaced.

In another case, the mold was also covering the vent. A Cropper resident, who did not want to be named, characterized the mold as “black stuff” over the vents.

She and her roommate began to feel sick, “except she got better and I did not,” said the business accounting student.

She noted that initially her symptoms felt like a common cold.

Then her throat became sore and started closing up. She said the back of her throat was covered in white bumps. 

The female went back home to Virginia where she visited the hospital and was diagnosed with bacterial infection due to the mold.

The Cropper resident missed a week of school, and was given a shot of penicillin, numbing solution, painkillers and anti-bacterial pills to alleviate her symptoms.

This specific issue was brought to the attention of the executive board members of the Residence Hall Association at a previous meeting held in Phase III.

Orze Killgo, the Residence Hall Association president, said he had not heard of on-campus health complications due to mold prior to the meeting.

“The news was very alarming to me and the E-board at large,” the 18-year-old English student from Ft. Washington, Md. said. “It’s truly a sad situation if people are going to the hospital because of mold.”

However, Tatum made it a point to direct the focus more so on the malfunctioning the pipes, than the actual mold.  She noted that housing has been experiencing problems with its piping, specifically the excess dripping and condensation that the pipes create. 

Housing Director Oscar Crumity said that he is aware of the piping problems and resulted mildew growth within some of the dormitories.

“The most reasonable solution is major renovation of the facility,” Crumity said.

In any case, if there is mold Tatum is adamant it can be cleaned up.

A weak bleach solution can be used to kill the fungus, and Tatum also suggests that molds and fungi thrive off of damp and dark surfaces. So drying out the area and keeping the place fairly lit will help to ensure that fungi don’t grow.

The director of the health clinic also urges that students bring issues like these to the attention of the administration.

“Some of these things we can take care of right here,” Tatum said.

Nonetheless, for many other students like Bridges and McDowning, the damage has already been done.

“I’m not satisfied with housing at all,” said Bridges.

Both Bridges and McDowning knew of other students who have had to deal with the same issue and their experiences with the mold and mildew infestation has put a damper on their on-campus living experience.

In response to renovation efforts, Crumity said that Wheatley Hall, the dormitory with the most moisture issues, may be the next building up for renovation.