Update 4/14 at 1:19 PM: Residence Life responded to a request for comment on Thursday morning, but will not be able to meet with reporters until next week.
Disclaimer: the author of this story formerly lived in Trillium and was among the residents required to relocate due to mold.
On Friday, March 31, Residence Life informed the Trillium community via email that Residence Life and Facilities Services had performed an assessment of Trillium which “showed that only 21 rooms have been impacted” by mold, and the residents currently residing in those rooms would need to be relocated. Later that same day, the residents of those 21 rooms were made aware of the mold and their need to relocate by Wednesday, April 5 in a separate email. Packing boxes and tape were provided to these students, and Trillium was soon awash with the hustle and bustle of moving preparations.
On Wednesday, Facilities Services provided dollies, and students could reserve moving trucks from the hours of 5-9 pm to help move. Additionally, Facilities and Residence Life workers were onsite to help students with the moving process. Residence Life also provided a free Subway dinner to those who were moving. For the most part, the moving process itself was smooth: all throughout the day, students could be seen walking in and out of Trillium with boxes and luggage, and students with cars were pulling up to Trillium, either to move their own belongings or to help friends with their moves.
Yet beneath all the activity of the day, questions lingered.
How long had the mold been growing? How long had Residence Life been aware of the issue? What had allowed the mold to grow in the first place? What possible health effects did the mold have on those who had been exposed? Let’s start by establishing a rough timeline of events to determine the answers to at least a few of these questions.
February 20-21: Residence Life and Facilities Services received initial emails from residents of Trillium’s first floor with pictures of suspected mold.
February 22: Custodians dispatched by Residence Life cleaned the windows and confirmed the presence of mold. Kade Peden, Operations Coordinator for Residence Life, told two of the complainants that, “The room is currently safe to occupy. … The issue seems to be the glazing on the window has failed. The room is safe to occupy with that failure, but the window will need to be serviced so that the mold does not come back. The window trim is stained from moisture damage and will need to be replaced, but won’t harbor any living organisms in it after it’s been cleaned. Facilities will be putting a materials list together tomorrow and building a timeline for repairing the structure.”
February 27: Residence Life informed the complainants that due to inclement weather, Facilities Services would be unable to perform maintenance on the window for the foreseeable future.
March 1: The complainants informed Residence Life that small amounts of mold could be found along the walls of their dorm room, and that the window did not seem to be the root cause of the mold.
March 2: Director of Risk Management and Environmental Health and Safety, April Sams, informed the complainants of EHS’s procedures regarding mold, and said that Facilities would “review the current conditions and implement corrective action.” Additionally, Director of Facilities Steve Yeadon said that “Facilities will continue to monitor this and advise as we learn what conditions are causing this moisture on the window.” It is of note that as of March 2, Facilities still believed the root cause of the mold to be excess moisture on the windows. Both Facilities and EHS recommended some preventative measures to the complainants in order to safeguard against the mold.
March 18: The complainants informed Facilities that the mold had returned, and expressed frustration with Facilities’ handling of the situation, writing, “We are nearing the one-month point of inaction and no real solutions have been suggested. This speaks to a clear failure of the college to provide basic, up-to-code living spaces for its students.”
March 19: Director of Facilities Steve Yeadon responded to the complainants, stating, “Full transparency, we are not sure what the root cause of this condition is, so we really don’t have a solution at this point.”
March 20: EHS Specialist Aaron Haddeland informed the complainants that sampling of the space would be conducted, “to help determine what may be the issue and inform our remediation and mitigation efforts.”
March 24: Custodial Supervisor Austen Derry informed the complainants that Facilities was dropping a dehumidifier off at the complainants’ room, in hopes of mitigating the mold.
March 31: The Trillium community was informed of the mold, and 21 rooms were informed that they would have to move.
April 2: At least two rooms were informed that they had been sent an email telling them that they had to move in error. At least one room was told that they would have to move, despite being left off of the email originally notifying residents of their need to move.
April 5: Moving occurs.
April 7: Swipe access into Trillium for students who had to move out was revoked.
Images taken and sent in by Trillium residents – collected by Jonah Griffin-Stolbach.
When asked when Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities Services had first been made aware of the mold, Director of Facilities Steve Yeadon wrote that Facilities first, “received a request to clean mold on a window in one room on February 20th.” Yeadon said Facilities initially “thought this was an isolated incident as it was shortly after Winter Break.” Yeadon also commented that, “on approximately March 20th, we [Facilities] received a second request from the occupant that the mold had returned. Again, Building Services responded and cleaned, reporting that it was just as bad as the first time. About this same time, Facilities started receiving service requests in other rooms throughout the building claiming mold on the windows.”
Around March 20, Facilities Services contacted the architect of Trillium, as well as the contractor in charge of its construction. Yeadon said that he was concerned that Trillium, “had a failure of the window glazing, window system, or the building skin that was allowing moisture into these spaces and causing condensation on the windows and allowing the mold to develop.” The next day, Facilities performed a full check of Trillium, “to get a clear understanding of how many rooms this [the mold] may be affecting.” According to Yeadon, “On March 21st, we [Facilities/ESH] contacted a hygienist to test all the spaces we identified as affected for mold. Mold testing occurred a few days after that, and we received the test results on March 28th.” Additionally, Yeadon wrote that, “on or about March 24th, the contractor [who built Trillium] did some testing on two windows to determine where the moisture was coming from, but the data was inconclusive. They are now assembling a team of consultants and experts to determine the root cause.”
Data collected in door-to-door survey of Trillium residents, and may be incomplete.
When asked whether Trillium would remain in use as Summer housing, Yeadon said, “We are still in the process of determining the source of intrusive moisture within the affected units. This will determine our remediation practices, including the timeline for completion. Because of the fluidity of the situation, we currently do not have an answer about summer occupation of the rooms or Trillium as a whole, or specific remedial actions that will be taken.” Yeadon noted that Facilities Services had counted 21 affected rooms and 36 relocated students.
Data collected in door-to-door survey of Trillium residents, and may be incomplete.
While the physical moving process for many former Trillium residents was smooth, the abrupt relocation came at a precarious and stressful time in the semester. Trillium resident Lucy Coulter (‘26) was among the initial group of residents told to move, but they had doubts as to whether there actually was mold in their room. After conducting a thorough search and finding no evidence of mold, Lucy asked Facilities to reexamine their room. In the meanwhile, though, Lucy still had to pack. On Monday, April 2, Lucy and their roommate were told that they would no longer have to move, as Facilities had determined that there was no mold in their room.
By this time, Lucy had already fully packed, but said that, “Honestly, it was just a huge relief. Packing is difficult, but moving is a lot harder.” Lucy then had to miss classes to unpack all their belongings, but does not blame Residence Life for the unfortunate situation: “Res Life did not place mold in people’s dorms, so this isn’t their fault. I was like, okay, this sucks, but I hope this was pain-free for you guys because … they’re already short-staffed.” Not all students were as forgiving of Residence Life, however. James Aas (‘26) was among the first residents to experience mold, and said of Residence Life, “I wish they’d been better communicators and actors. Been clearer about their intentions.” Robert Bourbon (‘26), who was relocated to Scholz, said, “I really don’t care about the mold. The mold is benign. I can coexist with the mold. I am not sure I can do so with Residence Life.” It is also important to note that this academic year has not been kind to Residence Life: the department has been chronically understaffed; a former employee filed a lawsuit against the department earlier this year; and the mold situation seems to be the topping cherry, occurring just months before the end of the school year.
Of the 21 rooms affected by mold, five were a part of the first-year BIPOC wing. The Quest interviewed an anonymous resident who was relocated from the BIPOC wing to the Farmhouse. The Farmhouse has not been used as normal housing since 2020, but has instead functioned as an isolation house for students quarantining due to COVID. According to the student, the conditions upon first arriving at the Farmhouse were less than ideal: “Everything just does not smell great. It was not cleaned out properly.” Furthermore, there were, “dishes upon dishes” in the sink, and, “everything was dusty as hell.” When one person turned over a dish they were cleaning, “it was completely covered in mold and leftover food.” Waking up in the morning, the student encountered a large number of ants coming into both their and their roommate’s beds. According to the student, Residence Life did not dispatch a custodian to help clean the Farmhouse until Monday, April 10, five days after Bob and their fellow residents first moved in.
The Trillium mold exodus fittingly came in the midst of Passover week, and for those relocated, it came as a stressful reminder of the readings they had done the previous semester in Hum 110. Perhaps next Passover will be easier for the Reed student populace, but until Trillium returns to full function, the fate of those seeking Summer housing, as well as the admitted students hoping to live in Trillium this coming fall, hangs in the balance.
Residence Life could not be reached for comment on this article.