dorms

A group of students at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa came together to voice their concerns about what they believe to be a growing problem with mold in the dorms. Ka Leo has not independently verified the concerns students face in the article. 

When Charlotte Donelson, Amelia Stoddard, and Andrew Beaton—three freshmen attending UH—first met in their political science class they didn’t imagine the massive student rights and health project which they would be taking on in their first semester at university. Donelson is immunocompromised and when she started to develop migraines after living in the freshman dorms, she started to look into the cause. 

What Donelson purportedly found was a serious mold problem. The combination of poor ventilation, carpeting, and a lack of regular cleaning had created the perfect breeding ground for mold; especially in the freshman towers and Hale Noelani. 

Donelson and her team brought a petition around the dorms to raise awareness of the mold and hopefully gather enough student signatures to garner attention from administration. 

Many students have reportedly seen the visible mold—especially in the bathrooms and vents—without initially realizing what it is. It doesn’t affect all students equally; students with preexisting health conditions such as asthma and POTS may feel particularly sickened by the mold. 

Stoddard opened up about her experience dorming in Wainani. She described the fridge and shower rod as covered in red mold and went on to say that “[the] ventilation in the bathroom [was] completely full of black mold.”

Moanike’ala Nabarro, spokesperson for UH, said that there were eight cases of suspected mold reported to student housing in fall 2022 and that each case was “thoroughly investigated and all turned up negative.” 

Although no mold professionals or outside investigators were sent in, Nabarro explained that the student housing director visited each suspected case personally. She said that the director previously worked for the Department of Health and is “well versed in investigating mold in the state of Hawai‘i.” Nabarro continued on to say “[the director] followed up with the Department of Health to ensure that proper protocols were conducted… and an open line of communication continues.”

Donelson, Stoddard, and Beaton are far from the only ones concerned about these issues. There is a facebook page full of UH parents who are concerned about the alleged mold and the living conditions in the dorms. Donelson says when reaching out to the school about these issues they have been given “options” which are temporary solutions at best—such as having somebody come in to clean the carpet. Stoddard emphasized that “everything in housing takes months.”

So far, the petition organizers have taken multiple steps including gathering student signatures, spreading information, and reaching out through complaints on kuliki. However, they are nowhere near the end of their campaign. 

Right now, the team is drafting letters and other documents to submit to administration. Beaton, the writer of the team, opened up about his plans; he is laying out the problems they want the university to address in a straightforward fashion, and presenting administration with specific issues in different buildings and giving them a call to action. Beaton wants to say to the university that “we know you are aware of this and we want a change.”

All three petition drafters want everything to go as smoothly and without conflict as possible; but they’re aware of the potential of this situation to evolve into something much bigger. They related the problems students at UH are experiencing to problems students attending public universities in the United States face on a national level. Stoddard says that “[it’s] not just about the mold… it’s the fact that universities can get away with living standards like this.” Students across the country pay thousands of dollars to live on campus—especially during their freshman year—only to experience subpar living conditions. 

As the situation continues Donelson, Stoddard, and Beaton continue to advocate for all students attending UHM with their tireless efforts to improve living conditions. The conditions at UH reflect a wider student rights issue across the nation; Stoddard says “if we are able to have it resolved here we want it resolved everywhere”.