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Students speak out after this year's public mold outrage



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Freshmen Alessia Borzaro and Olivia Ranucci move their belongings out Oct. 17 from their room in McNutt Quad. The quad is one of the living spaces on the northwest side of campus with mold problems. Colin Kulpa Buy Photos

A number of students who lived in IU's residence halls at the time have filed a lawsuit against the Trustees of IU after dealing with mold discovered last semester in residence halls.

The students’ attorneys claim IU broke its contract by allowing students to move into mold-plagued rooms. They also allege a number of wrongdoings, including negligence, fraud and deception.

But the Trustees’ attorneys argue the students have no case.

From cleaning rooms to moving out, many students have dealt with the fallout of mold on campus. Some believe they experienced mold in the residence halls before this year’s public outrage.

Kathryn Mulroe

Freshman Kathryn Mulroe now starts her mornings with a cocktail of various medicines. She finishes her days with another. She says she would not have to take some of the medications if she hadn’t been exposed to mold.

An asthmatic who is allergic to mold, Mulroe got sick last fall soon after she moved into McNutt Quad. She said she remembers feeling winded trying to go up stairs.

She can’t remember the exact number of times she went to the IU Health Center. It was either seven or eight.

Her MoldSCORE, a number that helps assess the amount of mold in a room, was deemed safe — only 107 out of 300.

Brindin Parrott

Sophomore Brindin Parrott remembers her clothes smelled like cat pee. She didn’t have a cat.

The first-generation college student became ill last fall soon after moving into Ashton Center. Eventually, she was struggling to breathe so much she wasn’t able to go to the gym.

“Not being able to work out made my mental health even worse,” she said. “And that’s on top of being sick.”

After every cough, Parrott’s mouth began to taste like blood.

She went to the emergency room in November and was prescribed a steroid, inhaler and a cough medicine. Parrot was also prescribed a pain reliever but didn't fill it so her bill would be cheaper.

Parrott made plans to move into BBHN Apartments on campus and estimates she spent about $500 furnishing her new apartment.

Before she left Ashton, Parrott said she saw people in masks come to clean two other rooms in her building.

Regan Poarch

Vocal performance major Regan Poarch’s story is a little different. She lived in McNutt Quad last year, and an employee of Residential Programs and Services said in an email there was no mold found in her residence hall.

Still, the then-freshman visited the IU Health Center seven times last year. What started as a cough developed into bronchitis, the flu, a bacterial infection in her eye and eventually asthma.

She had to stop singing for a time. But Poarch still had class, so she was forced to sit in rehearsals and read the music watching while her peers sang. Poarch said she felt like she was playing a game of catch up all year.

“It was your basic freshman who gets sick,” Poarch said. “But times 10.”

One day in the spring, she joined her friends on a run from McNutt Quad to Read Center.

She was fine in the beginning, but when the group passed Wells Library, Poarch began to cough.

Once she arrived at Read Center, Poarch dashed to the bathroom and leaned over the sink, still coughing. The sink was dotted with blood.

The cause of this and Poarch’s sudden asthma is unknown. She and her mother, Christine, suspected mold in McNutt, so Christine Poarch sent a message to the McNutt maintenance email. She specifically asked about the bathrooms and air ventilation system.

“I did not find any mold but did see some metal surfaces that were tarnished that could be perceived as mold,” said a member of RPS who inspected Poarch’s floor and bathrooms in McNutt in an email.

The staff member also said the vents are cleaned regularly and the filter system would be checked. Neither Christine Poarch’s email nor the RPS response mentioned investigating inside Poarch’s room.

After she got sick, Poarch visited an allergy and asthma specialist. She was diagnosed with late onset asthma and has since been allergy tested. She said she is allergic to almost every type of mold.

Poarch never found out what made her sick. But her health has gotten better since moving out of McNutt, and she still suspects her room had mold.

She now has to keep an emergency inhaler in her backpack.

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