University of Georgia to clean dorms amid student health complaints

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.

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.

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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