University of Georgia to clean dorms amid student health complaints

New residents of Creswell Hall leave the building on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 on the University of Georgia's Campus in Athens, a few days before the start of the fall semester. University officials said on Monday, Dec. 6, they will complete an intensive cleaning and maintenance initiative in several residence halls, including the Hill and Creswell communities in response to complaints about dorm conditions. (Julian Alexander for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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New residents of Creswell Hall leave the building on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 on the University of Georgia's Campus in Athens, a few days before the start of the fall semester. University officials said on Monday, Dec. 6, they will complete an intensive cleaning and maintenance initiative in several residence halls, including the Hill and Creswell communities in response to complaints about dorm conditions. (Julian Alexander for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Julian Alexander

Credit: Julian Alexander

The University of Georgia said Monday crews will soon conduct deep cleanings and make some repairs to several student housing complexes after a recent groundswell of parent complaints about their children getting sick on campus.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week reported many students — primarily in their first year on campus — are complaining of intense coughing, severe sore throat, congestion and other health conditions. They say it’s because rooms are improperly ventilated, old, need air filter replacements or have mold.

The university said the repair work will begin during winter break. It will include replacing air filters, removing some older air conditioning units, changing toilet valves in one hall and cleaning fan coil units in two halls.

“The health, safety and well-being of our students are always the top priority at the University of Georgia, and this applies to the residential communities our students call home during their time on campus,” UGA President Jere Morehead said in a statement.

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University of Georgia President Jere Morehead introduces faculty members during the 2020 Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Oct. 16, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

University of Georgia President Jere Morehead introduces faculty members during the 2020 Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Oct. 16, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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University of Georgia President Jere Morehead introduces faculty members during the 2020 Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Oct. 16, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

UGA said they have received 244 reports of potential mold since the start of the fall semester. In most instances, officials said they did not find mold. When mold was discovered, officials said it was immediately addressed.

Many of the residence halls that UGA plans to focus on during the break were originally built in the 1960s. UGA said it is finalizing plans, under development since late summer, to spend $20 million to renovate five first-year residence halls by 2025. The university said it has invested nearly $170 million since 2013 in renovations of major building systems including plumbing, electrical, mechanical, fire, security, and heating and air.

UGA parent Rebecca Etheridge, who started a Facebook page where parents discussed the problems, called Monday’s announcement “a start,” but said several residentials halls weren’t listed among those that need repairs.

“While we appreciate their acknowledgement of dorm issues and concerns, their response seems to leave out several dorms that need attention and several systems as well,” she said.

Etheridge said several halls “show lack of regular and proactive maintenance and even general repairs. Maintenance response cannot be placed on the students.”

Etheridge wants a federal agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, to inspect the dorms.

Another parent, Robin Sheppard, said her daughter, a first-year student, has been so sick she’s seeking a hardship withdrawal. She’s suffered headaches, frequent cold and flu-like symptoms, coughing and shortness of breath.

“I just feel horrible that she worked so hard to getting into UGA to end like this,” Sheppard said.

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University of Georgia parent Robin Sheppard said she took pictures like this in her daughter's dorm bathroom on Nov. 28, 2021 in Mell Hall she said shows mold. Photo contributed.

Credit: Contributed

University of Georgia parent Robin Sheppard said she took pictures like this in her daughter's dorm bathroom on Nov. 28, 2021 in Mell Hall she said shows mold. Photo contributed.
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University of Georgia parent Robin Sheppard said she took pictures like this in her daughter's dorm bathroom on Nov. 28, 2021 in Mell Hall she said shows mold. Photo contributed.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Complaints about substandard student housing conditions are nationwide. Students at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C., recently staged a month-long protest to address ongoing concerns about mold and other issues. Several dozen students at Atlanta’s historically Black schools held demonstrations in solidarity with the Howard students and raised concerns about housing conditions on their campuses.

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