UVI stonewalling release of dorm records
Published: October 9, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Officials at the University of the Virgin Islands are refusing to release information pertaining to the construction of the $10 million West Residence Hall after students complained about multiple deficiencies and problems with the building's security.
University of the Virgin Islands President David Hall said in an email that The Daily News' request Oct. 3 for all construction documents and change orders for the dorm be turned over by Tuesday was unreasonable.
"We will inform the Daily News of our response to this request once I have had an opportunity to discuss this request with legal counsel," Hall said. "The date indicated in your letter is not a reasonable time to address this request."
The issues reported in mid-September by students who live in the dorm included: no air conditioning in parts of the dorm, dysfunctional door locks, the presence of mold and mildew and fire alarms triggering randomly and frequently.
At least one suite, which housed four students, had to be evacuated because of water damage and that a mold assessment was being conducted, UVI spokeswoman Nanyamka Farrelly said Sept. 18.
Neither Hall nor Farrelly would comment last week about the status of the mold assessment study or any ongoing repairs at the dormitory. Other UVI personnel contacted by The Daily News declined to comment and said they had been instructed to refer all inquiries to Farrelly.
Hall issued a "written message from the President" Sept. 25 saying that reports about the dorm were "sensational" and "inaccurate" while at the same time contradicting Farrelly's initial denial of the hospitalization of a reportedly asthmatic student who lived in the water-damaged suite that a student said may have mold or mildew issues.
According to Matthew Eastman, a resident of the evacuated suite - Room 150 - the bathroom ceiling had become so mushy and bowed from a leak that it had to be removed by a maintenance crew who responded a couple of weeks after his suite mates had reported the issue. When it was removed, Eastman said, he could see that the "ceiling is just all black mold."
Eastman also said one of his suite mates had been hospitalized because of an asthma attack triggered after he had moved in but before the maintenance crew removed the ceiling.
Farrelly denied that the issues are building-wide and characterized the West Hall dorm as having "water damage to just one suite" and said that students had not reported any other issues. One air-conditioning unit was also down, she later said.
Farrelly said the university had hired a licensed contractor to perform an assessment, which would include investigating the extent of any mold colonization.
Hall has also said that the university is working toward correcting the dorm's problems, but neither he nor Farrelly have spoken about specific improvements the administration has undertaken, any results of a mold investigation or any plan for reimbursing students who may have been affected.
The one-year old dorm is the newest dorm on the St. Thomas campus, and UVI charges its residents higher rates for additional amenities, such as air conditioning.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.