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Residence halls at Miami battle pests, mold and maintenance requests


When first-year students get their dorm room assignments, it can feel like a game of roulette. Some students get placed in newly renovated residence halls, while others are placed in less-than-ideal conditions.

Mikey Cottrill, a first-year undeclared major, hadn’t even heard of his residence hall until housing assignments were sent in late July.

“I never heard of Collins Hall, and I saw my room and I was kind of disappointed,” Cottrill said.

While Cottrill has since grown to appreciate his room and residence hall, he has noticed some issues, primarily with the temperature control within his dorm room.

“I was really sick, and I was freezing,” Cottrill said. “I tried to turn the temperature up to 75 degrees, and five minutes later, I turned around and looked at it, and it said 69 degrees.”

Complaints about living in dorm halls are commonplace, with the most popular being about dirty or broken facilities and worries about mold and other infestations.

Alexandria Stalzer, a first-year architecture major, has found that pest infestations have been a major problem in Emerson Hall, where she lives.

“There are quite a few animals,” Stalzer said. “There's a lot of bugs and stuff, but I guess you'll have that anywhere. But one day there was a bat flying around in there.”

Stalzer said the pests in Emerson have been a continual problem, and are now starting to personally affect her.

“Now, there is a squirrel living in my wall,” Stalzer said. “At least, we think it's a squirrel. It could be like a mouse or something.”

Stalzer said pests weren’t the only issues, either. As cold and flu season ramps up, students have been on careful lookout for mold growing in their dorm rooms and throughout their residence hall.

“I see some in the bathroom sometimes,” Stalzer said.

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Rob Abowitz, associate director of residence life, manages most student complaints. While Abowitz can handle most of them, reports of mold have additional procedures.

“[Reports] automatically go to the physical facilities department,” Abowitz said. “And it goes to the Office of Environmental Safety and Risk Management.” 

Jeff Johnson, the director of Environmental Safety and Risk Management, talked through the process of how his office handles each case of mold.

“[All reports] require a thorough investigation of the building itself,” Johnson said. “That includes mechanical spaces, looking at ventilation systems and, depending on the extent of the [cause], we have a thermal imaging camera that we would use to investigate where the potential moisture [could be].”

Both Abowitz and Johnson said although there may be low amounts of mold in residence halls, it’s not serious enough to affect student health.

“I can think of seldom, if ever, that we've actually found a condition that would adversely impact health,” Johnson said.

Abowitz said students who were concerned about mold in their dorm could look at the Indoor Environmental Air Quality Report published by the Physical Facilities office.

The website outlines the steps that the university takes when investigating mold reports as well as listing recent mold inspections of different residence halls. Students can also find helpful resources on how to prevent mold in their rooms and halls.

Abowitz said that even if there is no mold found during an investigation, the university still does things so that people are more at ease.

“[The Environmental Safety and Risk Management office] cleans vents, they clean filters, they can engage dehumidifiers just so everyone feels comfortable that [the mold] has been

remediated,” Abowitz said.

As for concerns besides mold, Abowitz strongly recommends that students take action. 

“It's important to report things,” Abowitz said. “Every student has access to the physical facilities work order. You complete the form, and it gets it in the system. The good thing about a student reporting it is that they get the communication when it's resolved.”

However, students have expressed their frustrations in getting issues fixed in a timely manner.

“The light [in our bathroom] went out. It didn't get fixed for a good week or two,” Cottrill said. 

Stalzer also expressed annoyance at delays in getting things fixed by maintenance.

“I put in a maintenance request a few weeks ago to get the squirrel out of my wall,” Stalzer said. “Maybe three or four weeks [ago].”

Stalzer and Cottrill both said they wished that the university would offer more information to students about the different dorms and the current conditions of the halls, so that first-years aren’t blindsided when they move in.

“[Students] should at least know more,” Cottrill said.