At the start of the academic year, residents of New Apartment D1 were forced to relocate to Weaver Cottage due to reports of mice and mold. These recent reports add to the ongoing history of mice and mold infestations in the New Apartments.
A damaged heating system had leaked water into Apartment D1, resulting in the growth of mold. Initial testing indicated traces of Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mold.
“Custodial [staff] responded very quickly and very thoroughly,” Interim Director of Residential Life (ResLife) Jillian Yoder said. “They replaced the flooring [and] cleaned the air ducts and vents. They also pulled up all of the floor materials in the bathrooms.”
This extensive response was justified: Short-term exposure to black mold can result in chronic coughing, exhaustion, fever and difficulty breathing. Long-term exposure can result in nausea, vomiting and even death.
ResLife worked with an external company to test the mold in Apartments D1 and D2. Further tests have shown that both apartments now contain zero mold spores.
The residents of D1 also reported additional housemates: mice.
“We provided temporary housing for them [the D1 residents] for a while,” Yoder said. “We addressed that on a few different levels. Our maintenance staff came to clean and lay traps. Our carpentry staff found some holes where they were able to patch and cover up. There were a couple spots under the sink where they thought there was potential entry for mice.”
ResLife again worked with an outside contractor to assist with pest control. According to Yoder, this contractor monitors the traps weekly.
The New Apartments have long been plagued by mice, mold and other woes. In October of 2003, black mold was discovered in Apartment D2. The College quickly removed it, but when the D2 residents returned from winter break, the mold had grown to a point where it was falling off the walls. The College then relocated the D2 residents to temporary housing at the Kenyon Inn.
Before the E-Block of the New Apartments was demolished in 2014, the residential list of grievances included mold, as well as broken window screens, flimsy doors, lack of hot water, dirt and debris in the bathtubs, bugs, dust, overgrown weeds, difficulty in regulating temperature and a wobbly staircase.
Former D-Block residents Maria Sorkin ’16 and Kip Clark ’16 reported mice in their apartments in the Feb. 27, 2014 edition of the Collegian. They believed that the mice were traveling between apartments via holes in the utility closets connecting them.
“It’s no secret that the New [Apartments] are the worst housing,” said Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman in the same 2014 article. In a Collegian article published in December of that year, Kohlman said that the New Apartments would be completely removed within the next decade.
The current residents of D1 were relocated to Weaver Cottage for about two weeks. They have since moved back to Apartment D1 with no new reports of mice or mold. Each resident either declined to comment or was unavailable for an interview.
Mold has been an issue at other colleges as well. Earlier this year, an incident at the University of Maryland made national headlines when a student died from respiratory complications aggravated by mold in her dorm. Officials at the university acknowledged that prolonged exposure to mold can cause respiratory irritation, increasing susceptibility to viral infection.
For Kenyon students with pest problems, Kohlman has some advice. “Mice go where the food is. This is the time of the year where the mice are coming in from the outside to prepare their nest for the winter. So don’t encourage them with a stash of available sustenance.”