A petition about bathroom conditions

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The article below is written by Gabe Reynolds, a student at New England College. This does not reflect the opinions of the student or faculty staff at the NewEnglander.

Call for Action 

Authors Note: The Call for Action was written in October of 2023 and reflects the material conditions of the present time, I am keeping it for archival purposes as this will show the steps I’ve taken to remedy this. 

The state of the bathrooms of each dorm building on this campus are abhorrent. Just take a look at your shower curtains, your ceilings, and the cracks of each room; you are sure to see mold of many shades lining wherever your eyes meet. Most alarmingly, black mold remains at large in the showers and on the ceiling. Black mold is known to produce allergy responses in a large group of people, however to immunocompromised students it can induce a fungal infection. Can we really sit by as fellow students are put at risk due to negligence on the part of SSC and the administration? 

I must first address the overarching idea of this piece, I am in no way attacking the wonderful custodial staff here at NEC. They do an extremely taxing job with little to no resources at their disposal. They deserve nothing but our respect and kindness. My issues are with the administration and SSC. 

Though black mold is not the only issue haunting our facilities, it is the focus of today’s campaign. These conditions are proliferated largely by the lack of ventilation in the bathrooms, the only breeze coming in from under the doors, through the small shafts on their lower side, and whenever someone opens the door for a brief moment. This is visibly the cause as drops of water remain stagnant on the ceiling of the bathrooms. The rampant humidity is not only the cause of mold growth, but also bacterial growth. 

Not only is the lack of ventilation an issue, the lack of toilet lids is arguably even worse. Attached here is a CNN video about the effects of leaving the toilet lid open. This adds to the unsanitary nature of the bathrooms.  

We must ask ourselves as a student body, can we risk our immune systems being under constant attack during the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the flu season? There are achievable solutions to fix this issue, ones that must be demanded by the students themselves. But first, let’s look over the accumulated evidence.  

Photo of black mold in the west dorm basement. Taken on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo provided by Gabe Reynolds

These photos were taken in November of 2023, so it must be said that was taken before my meeting with administration and is purely here for documentation purposes. These photos do not accurately reflect the current state of the bathrooms. 

Solutions 

I have constructed a several step plan to tackle this issue of overwhelming unsanitary conditions. 

First of all, the shower curtains must be replaced yearly or bi-yearly. It is clear to us who use them that steps must be taken to reduce the massive mold build ups. 

Then, the bathrooms must be deep cleaned. This deep cleaning should focus on the showers, the corners, and the ceiling. This will reduce the buildup of mold and debris significantly. 

Afterwards, lids should be put on the toilets to reduce risk of bacterial outbreaks on campus. 

Furthermore, there should be a campaign for the students that transparently displays how paramount not leaving personal trash in the bathroom trash cans is. It can spread mold spores from discarded food which puts our bathroom safety in jeopardy. To remedy this, we propose that personal trash cans should be provided to students who do not have them. This will save money on cleaning costs and allow for a clean and safe campus. If this is not feasible, we must push for lidded trash cans. 

These steps should not come at the expense of our wonderful custodial staff here at New England College, they deserve to be afforded the resources and manpower to allow for the fulfillment of these goals. 

Steps Taken 

  • I, first, spoke to one of my Resident Advisors to reach my Area Coordinator Lucas Silva. 

I sent the following email: 

Hello, 

The conditions of the bathrooms on campus, specifically the dorm ones, are worrying to a large part of the student body. With cold and flu season approaching, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students feel unsafe as black mold and bacteria build up in our bathrooms. Not only are these facilities we are required to use on campus, but it is a gross health concern we all possess. In the interest of the common good, we have several policy suggestions on how it could be fixed. 

Annually changing the shower curtains to prevent mold build up 

Putting lids on the toilets 

A deep clean of all the campus bathrooms 

Proper ventilation in all of the bathrooms 

I look forward to your response, 

Gabriel Reynolds 

  • Upon emailing Lucas, I got an automated email stating that he was on vacation and linking the Residential Life email address. 
  • After emailing Residential Life I was greeted by Dorreen Long, who responded asking which shower curtains needed to be changed and adding Director of Facilities Tyler Huff. I asked for a date where these issues will be addressed and was not responded to. 
  • I then emailed Tyler Huff and received no response. 
  • A single custodian was sent into the bathrooms with a can full of bleach and a singular tooth brush, they tried their best but there was no change. 
  • I spoke with Jason Buck who directed me towards administration. 
  • I then spoke to Dan Gearen

Provided below are the results from the basement of the West bathroom, I did not cover the rest of the bathrooms because working with that many files of nearly identical pictures of walls is something I’d prefer to leave in the past. 

Photo of black mold in the West dorm basement on Feb. 7 2024. Photo provided by Gabe Reynolds

As you can see, the issue has become significantly less prevalent and I commend all involved for this. Specifically I’d like to thank the custodial staff, who each and every day work with their limited resources to do the best they can. 

One Issue that I stressed largely with administration, and one they promised they’d take care of was that of ventilation. If that issue was solved, and the air vents in the bathrooms were flowing there would be no need for this article. However, without addressing the root cause of the mold outbreak, we are dooming ourselves to repeat it time and time again. Therefore, I see a need to bring this to everyone’s attention so that the future students of New England College will not have to repeat my steps. 

This is where the article would’ve ended if moldy insulation didn’t fall from the ceiling during my recent shower. The tile was removed by New England College staff and it revealed that the issue was far greater than I ever could have anticipated. To say I was shocked and disgusted was an understatement. 

We welcome you to note all instances of mold on campus with the hashtag #NECMold on all major social medias. Feel free to continue to do this until the ventilation is fixed in all dorm bathrooms and students can live in the dorm buildings without fear of health complications arising from negligence. 

The link below provide all of the photos taken of mold on campus.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eweBKB6SQv1jZYWHLwGbTdWOH7LpJO-PGzC3VFBxzEA/edit?usp=sharing

Follow the Students of Henniker instagram at @studentsofhenniker 

Get put in the Students of Henniker email chain by messaging studentsofhenniker@gmail.com 

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