Preventing mold is more important than painting over it

Getting sick because of mold is a pretty universal experience for freshmen living in Thurston Hall. But it does not need to be.

The University of Maryland, College Park was plagued by mold and common viruses that destroyed buildings, belongings and residence halls and caused sickness and the death of a student last semester. Officials responded to the incident by installing 50 moisture detectors that alert the school when a space was likely to grow mold. The University collects data from the sensors every 48 hours and plans on installing “smart sensors” that will notify facility workers in real time about potential mold outbreaks.

At GW, students have complained and dealt with mold, crumbling infrastructure and water damage issues in residence halls for years. Thurston mold has become part of the first-year experience for some freshmen, and students have been displaced from their residence hall rooms because of mold outbreaks. On one occasion, the quality of University buildings became so bad that D.C. fined GW.

In response to these instances, officials have hired an outside maintenance company to wipe down Thurston walls to remove mold and gave students a stipend after they were removed from the affected residence hall. But these actions inappropriately respond to the issue and do not fix the actual problem – mold will continue to grow without a proper prevention system.

The University should invest in moisture detectors similar to the ones implemented at UMD instead of spending money on maintenance every time there is a mold outbreak. A preventative measure like UMD’s would decrease the number of student complaints because officials would be able to detect mold before it becomes a larger issue. The University could enable facilities workers to become notified of mold and wipe down walls before they cause mold infestations and harm a student’s health.

Investing in preemptive measures would also help reduce the amount of money officials invest in renovations and pay off fines. Instead of spending millions on renovations for aging buildings and worrying about potential lawsuits, administrators can reassure students that the buildings they live in are mold-free.

Hearing jokes about catching an illness because a student has caught the “Thurston plague” might be funny, but the jokes are grounded in the reality that residence halls and buildings run rampant with mold that cause unsanitary and unhealthy living conditions for students. The University should care about the health and safety of their students and become more proactive in addressing mold outbreaks, especially if it could harm a student’s health.

The University needs to prioritize stopping problems before they become costly for both the University and for students.

Hannah Thacker, a sophomore majoring in political communications, is the contributing opinions editor.

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