Opinions, Column

Every Student Deserves Healthy Housing

This weekend, I spent a night at Health Services. I did not want to stay and did my best to protest. I even tried multiple times to leave. Eventually, the nurses insisted on me staying and I reluctantly gave in after coming to the realization that I was not fit to walk down the hall, much less all the way back to my dorm in the snow at 11 p.m. I am glad that I stayed, because the nurses and doctor took great care of me. It was nice to have people care for me like my mom would at home. I woke up in the middle of the night coughing and a nurse made me tea because it’s what she usually does to help her daughter when she’s sick. My stay at Health Services was beneficial and I have been doing much better since seeing them.

However, I don’t think that Health Services should be the only part of the Boston College community that focuses on student health and well-being. Because while I was fortunate enough to only have to spend a night away from my dorm, a friend of mine had to completely evacuate campus in wake of the snowstorm, because he physically could not stay in his dorm. Back in November, he began experiencing symptoms that were very similar to those of allergies, but he had been tested when he was a young child and wasn’t allergic to anything major. For months, doctors tried to get to the bottom of his symptoms and illness. He’d come to find out this past weekend that he was severely allergic to mold which infested the air vents and the bathroom in his Walsh Hall dorm.

The mold had apparently been there for months, thriving in the humid temperatures of the bathroom. This is not an ideal situation for anyone, allergic or not. The dorms should be properly cleaned so that incidents like this don’t happen. My friend had to get the mold testing done on his own and pay for his temporary relocation, and all of the medical bills for tests and doctor visits as he and his family tried to get to the bottom of his illness. After the friend complained to his Resident Director, BC facilities came and caulked  where the mold had been. Obviously, this wouldn’t have had to happen if the dorms had been properly sanitized. And yes, I will admit that the students do have a certain degree of responsibility for the cleanliness of their dorms and their bathrooms. But I think that, in this specific situation, it was out of the students’ hands. They have no control over the air vents. During breaks, the air vents should be properly cleaned, especially with the change in the season as many students get sick. It’s a preventative step that keeps students healthy and safe.

Everyone kind of accepts Walsh’s reputation as being a little gross because it is known as a “party dorm.” To be honest, I wasn’t even grossed out when I learned of the mold because it’s Walsh. Kind of like with the rumors of rats in Mac, you kind of just don’t think much of it, even after that Barstool video. But I guess it is a bit of a double-edged sword—the residents of Walsh get the convenience of the social scenes, but they also suffer within the subpar living quarters. I was scrolling through Facebook earlier and saw Walsh residents complaining that it was so cold in their dorms that ice was beginning to form on the inside of the windows. It’s unfair to these students that at the beginning and end of the academic year, they are sweating profusely because the dorms do not have air conditioning, but during the winter months they’re also freezing because the heating system in the building does not work properly. Irregular air conditions and improper ventilation are what lead to the development of mold and other allergens, according to the outside company that tested the mold.

Regardless, around 800 students live in Walsh Hall. They deserve to live in a healthy environment. BC should take preventative steps for all of the residence halls on campus. The entire campus should work to provide the best environment for students to grow academically and personally, and a part of that is having a “home” in which they are comfortable. This incident should be something that BC learns from and takes initiative to prevent from happening again. Allergic reactions are very serious and, thankfully, in the case of this student it wasn’t life-threatening, but it could be for someone else.

January 27, 2019

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