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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Mold puts Granville residents in hotels and on-campus residents in debt

Most students could only dream of being put-up in the Carolina Inn for a couple of nights. For students living in Granville Towers, a moldy air conditioning unit is all that's necessary to make that happen. When it comes to students living on campus, however, the accommodations they receive for a mold outbreak in their room are much less glamorous.

Last week, The Daily Tar Heel reported that Granville Towers is temporarily relocating its residents as it deals with mold in its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. 

The mold uncovered in Granville Towers has all types of icky names like aspergillus/penicillium, cladosporium, fusarium, chaetomium, stachybotrys, trichoderma and ulocladium mold species. The symptoms of prolonged exposure to this mold are similarly icky: eye irritation, nasal stuffiness, chronic coughing and sneezing, wheezing or rashes.

In response, Granville is placing groups of students in local hotels for 48 hours each on a rolling basis while it treats their suites. For those who are awaiting a room cleaning, High Efficiency Particulate Air filters have been placed in rooms to remove mold spores from the air.

Though Granville’s response to the mold issue was slow at first, and moving out of one's room could be disrupting to students' sleep in the midst of midterm season, being put-up in a hotel room isn't all that bad when you consider how students in dorms are being impacted by mold.

Emili Potts, a resident adviser in Craige, was hospitalized for two days in February for mold-related bacterial pneumonia, missing classes and two exams. She also incurred about $3,000 in medical bills after insurance.

When UNC senior Larissa Burke reported mold in her room, she was moved into a room with even more mold. Still faced with the threat of mold-related illness in her new room, she bought cleaning supplies and a $200 industrial humidifier out of pocket. To make things worse, when she reported $500 in mold-damaged property to Carolina Housing, she was never reimbursed. 

These students didn't receive complimentary air filters, nor were they moved anywhere comparable to the Carolina Inn. This difference can be largely attributed to how much students are able to pay for their accommodations, and the fact that Granville Towers is privately-managed.

Granville Towers is far more expensive than on-campus living for students. Double rooms in University-operated residence halls cost $3,371 per person per semester, while Granville double rooms cost more than $5,000 per person per semester. This means that Granville is generating much more revenue per student, which is likely how they can afford to pay for residents' hotel stays.

Let's be clear, though — $3,371 isn't exactly a low price to pay for housing, and it's all that most students can afford. So, when students are put at a higher risk for repeated mold exposure than their peers on the basis of income, there's an inherent equity concern.

Regardless of the cost of their accommodations, all students deserve to live and study in a healthy and safe environment. While Granville’s mold outbreak may be disrupting residents' sleep, and in some cases their health, the problems on campus cannot be ignored. 

We can't fault students with more means for receiving better treatment, and we're glad that they're able to avoid getting sick. However, while we're not necessarily expecting the University to put students in hotels, the status quo for on-campus residents is insufficient. 

Students in University-sponsored housing are facing the same health concerns as their counterparts in Granville, and the price they pay for their room should not disadvantage them in comparison to their well-to-do peers.

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