By TONY GUERRERO
Fort Hays State University recently responded to reports of mold in Victor E. Village and McMindes Hall.
The official statement provides a timeline of events on the university's response to health and safety concerns within student dorms.
"Our goal will always be to maintain a safe and healthy environment for our students, employees and campus visitors," the official statement read.
FHSU was aware of the possible mold in a residence hall in late August, an issue that was quickly addressed, according to the statement.
The FHSU Residence Life staff emailed all students living on campus to encourage them to submit work orders if they had health and safety concerns with their living conditions.
The statement said on Sept. 13, ISI Environmental conducted inspections in 20 rooms within Victor E. Village and McMindes Hall, as well as a common area in McMindes Hall and two adjacent outdoor spaces.
"While on-site, the ISI industrial hygienist recommended that we clean several vents and spaces, and our maintenance and custodial staff quickly completed that work," the statement said.
A final inspection from ISI Environmental on Oct. 24 reported low to moderate levels of two common potential allergen mold types.
The statement further added that mold spores exist both indoors and outdoors, and their growth can be facilitated indoors by the presence of dust, lingering trash, recyclables, clothing, and towels retaining dirt and moisture.
FHSU student and Victor E. resident Reagan Fellman said that the vents in her dorm were cleaned twice between September and November.
"They used a spray that made our room smell like harsh chemicals for the next week," she said. "That's not safe either, to breathe in those harmful toxins and chemicals."
Fellman said complying with the university's request to submit work orders was a challenging process for her and others in the dorms.
This is Fellman's first year at FHSU and said her class is obligated to reside.
According to the FHSU First Year Live on Campus Policy, undergraduate students new to the university are required to live on campus for their first year, with limited exceptions.
"We have no other option of getting out of this situation, so we're just forced to live in an unhealthy environment," she said.
FHSU student Luis Valencia worked as a counselor for the High Plains Music Camp, a summer camp for middle and high school students to experience a week of concentrated study with nationally recognized musicians, teachers and conductors.
Valencia said the current conditions have been present since campers have stayed at McMindes Hall in July.
"Some of the campers complained that it smells weird," he said. "We looked and there was mold on top of the pipes."
Valencia and another counselor reported sightings of mold in additional locations, including walls and bedding.
Campers were regularly moved to different rooms after community assistants, responsible for a floor or wing in the residence halls, were notified.
Valencia said the measures taken by FHSU, as outlined in the official statement, should have been addressed sooner.
"For Fort Hays to say it was later, I thought, 'Actually, we were saying this for a while now,' but they just chose to ignore it," he said.
Fellman also expressed concerns for student safety.
"I think they need to do a better job at keeping their students safe and healthy," she said. "Improve the dorms for the students that are forced to live here next year."