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Vanderbilt students report toxic levels of mold in residence halls

By MARISSA SULEK

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — Vanderbilt students raise concerns after they uncovered toxic mold levels in their dorms.

One resident assistant said he got sick last semester. His symptoms wouldn’t go away until he went home for Thanksgiving break. He lives at the Highland Quad residence halls, where hundreds of students live. Now, that RA is looking out for himself and residents.

Residence halls are supposed to be a home away from home for students. But as Aaron Chen, who lives at Highland Quad, found out, the living conditions are toxic with mold.

“It’s a shame we have to live like this,” Chen said. “We took down the panels to our roof, and sure there’s paint over it, but you can chip it away and just see it’s there. You can’t ignore it.”

“We hope that we can hold Vanderbilt accountable,” Benjamin Bryce, an RA in the residence hall who discovered the mold last semester, said.

“Just by chance, I had seen a video of another student at another university who had mold in their dorm and was having the same symptoms,” Bryce said. “And I thought, ‘You know what, what if Vanderbilt has mold?’ So I went up to the ceiling tiles, I ripped it down, and what I saw, my jaw hit the floor.”

He said the mold explained the flu-like symptoms he couldn’t shake off.

“For the entirety of last semester, I had this recurring cough and this consistent upper respiratory inflammation,” Bryce said. “I had a sore throat every morning I woke up, I had a cough, stuffy nose, the whole deal – general malaise, brain fog.”

Since then, Bryce said more than 100 residents reached out to him, saying they had mold in their rooms too. He said half of those were confirmed. However, Bryce said to Vanderbilt’s credit that they did send out a maintenance crew and found a place for him to sleep one night.

“They flat out said they didn’t think it was mold,” Bryce said. “They were frustrated they had to be there. They were angry. They were frustrated, which was just shocking to me.”

News4 reached out to Vanderbilt University who said it conducts regular structural and hygienic inspections. It also has an on-staff hygienist, hired a third-party professional testing company, and works with students who file reports. Bryce said he wanted to see more.

“I want to change this for the future and change this for students on campus now,” Bryce said.

Chen said the Highland Quad residence halls would be torn down in the next couple of years. But he said students still pay room and board for an unsafe environment.

“It’s frustrating because it’s $12,000 for students to pay for housing,” Chen said.

Bryce said that as an RA, he tries to be at the residence hall, but he spends time away if he can – even a couple of hours can make a difference.

Bryce said he had an industry-leading test done on the mold in the residence hall. The results show several varieties where the mold is 100 times above standard and two types 1,000 times above normal.

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