Moldgate: The Whole Picture


Submitted to The Simpsonian

The mold issue discovered on campus has not only been an inconvenience as it has also been tied to Frank Cruz developing bronchitis.

by Caleb Geer, Staff Writer

COVID-19 is not the only thing Simpson College students are worried about spreading as we head into winter. Mold has been discovered in several areas of student housing. 

First-year Hannah Curtis discovered mold in her Kresge dorm room during Halloween weekend. The mold she found was on the floor, windowsill, wall and even her bed. 

“It’s just kind of everywhere in the room, and it was really bad,” Curtis said.

Curtis was initially disgusted but recognized why it had happened. The temperature in Kresge and the amount of rain that fell that week on campus were both high.

With help from her CA, she was able to move to Barker the day after the discovery but has not heard much from the college. 

“I saw maintenance in our room one day when I was walking by, but they haven’t said if they, like, really cleaned it up or, like, what the situation is,” Curtis said.

Curtis plans to stay in Barker until the end of the semester.

“I am a little frustrated because I just kind of had my life uprooted,” Curtis said. “You know, I had to pack everything in one afternoon and move it, which is very frustrating.” 

Due to the mold, Curtis had to dispose of several of her belongings. 

Just across campus in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house, junior Frank Cruz was dealing with a similar issue. 

Cruz’s problems began much earlier, but because of a similar cause as Curtis’. The roof of the SAE house, which has been known to be leaky, caused moisture to build in his second-floor room. Cruz placed a maintenance work order, and the response was to place a large fan in the room to dry it out. 

“Two weeks later I got an email that said it got resolved on its own,” Cruz said.

When more rain fell, and the situation repeated itself, Cruz was frustrated. He then decided to email higher authorities on campus which included President Marsha Kelliher. 

Cruz said he felt the need to send the email on behalf of all Simpson students. 

“It wasn’t really more directed toward, like, my room…I think it’s embarrassing to know that we are living in unsuitable and unsafe environments here at Simpson College,” he said.

It took two days for him to receive a response.

What came next, Cruz initially thought was a small case of the flu.

“It started to hurt whenever I kept breathing in hard or breathing out,” he said. 

Cruz went to the campus nurse and was suggested to get an X-ray. After visiting urgent care, he was diagnosed with bronchitis and prescribed steroids. Cruz was told by medical professionals that the changing weather could have caused his bronchitis, but his room likely had a large part in it.

Following the diagnosis, Cruz said he was even angrier because the work order, which now carried the ‘urgent’ designation, was still unanswered. 

A visit to the Dean of Students, Matt Hansen, quickly followed. After discussion, action was taken in Cruz’s favor. 

“That is the fastest I’ve ever seen maintenance come over,” Cruz said.

Cruz has moved to a different room and does not plan on moving back. He said he’s feeling better and is now off his medication. Cruz also said he is very grateful for his professors as they have worked with him through his troubles with illness.

Campus maintenance is seen by Cruz as a contributor to what happened.

“I believe that if I did not talk to the Dean of Students, I would still be sleeping in that room today,” he said. “It’s just ridiculous that it had to lead to a point that someone finally got sick, and they had to finally take charge of it.”

Assistant Director of Residence Life, Ethan Brown, said he recognizes the troubles campus has had with maintenance. Employee turnover is a large issue especially since the head of custodial staff recently left. 

“I think that that has led to just maybe some miscommunication or some difficulty trying to fill in the role and get some things done,” Brown said. 

Brown said mold this time of year, and in buildings as old as are on campus, is not surprising or unusual. He has been thankful for students being understanding of this. 

“For the most part, I would say the students have been very nice and very willing to work with us and they understand mold is a thing that you just kind of deal with when you have moist temperatures and heat kicks in and you have humidity and things like that,” Brown said. “I don’t think that’ll be an issue now that the heat is permanently on and helping to pump nice warm air through the building.”

Being in Iowa leads to extreme changes in weather and temperature, which can be troublesome. Knowing to wipe down a moist windowsill will help fight mold.

“If there are issues with the AC units or the heating units, that is different, but students can certainly help with reducing the moisture in their rooms just by paying attention, especially around their windowsills,” Brown said.

Kresge’s roof is a project Brown hopes to get done eventually but acknowledges it will be expensive. Updating windows is something he personally wants to have done, but money is still a concern. 

“I’m not the money guy. If I could poof and give us the money that we needed to do all of that, that would be awesome,” Brown said.

Between Kresge and Barker, only seven rooms were affected, with six being in Kresge. 

“It’s not going to have a big outbreak,” Brown said. “We’ll get it taken care of.” 

Brown said the school has been as accommodating as it can be, as moving students immediately was an option every student received. Work has also been done on the SAE house’s roof.

Since the beginning of the string of mildew issues this semester, three other members of SAE have contracted bronchitis after Cruz; however, Cruz had two medical professionals tell him his case was not contagious. Bronchitis continues to be problematic in all of the fraternities.