Dear students, faculty, and staff,

I am writing to update you on a recently completed comprehensive review of March Hall and to share the remediation steps we will be taking to address related issues. As you may know, March Hall is temporary modular housing that opened in May 2017 to supplement existing residence space until construction of the two McCartney Street residential halls can be completed. The first McCartney Street hall opened in August 2020. As a result of the COVID-19 related delays in construction and construction materials, McCartney Phase II will open August 2024. When that work is completed, it will no longer be necessary to use temporary housing.

Early in May, thanks to Harrison Mobarak ’24, I and other members of the administration became aware of issues within March Hall. These concerns included the possibility of mold and other potential health hazards. In late May, we conducted a thorough review of the entire interior and exterior of the housing units. In our review, we involved staff from our Facilities and Residence Life teams as well as an independent outside professional from EnviraHealth Corporation. 

EnviraHealth reported the following key findings:

  • Air samples collected from bathrooms, bedrooms, and the common room were analyzed for bioaerosols including mold spores and found to be within normal limits based on industry guidelines and outdoor sampling results. 
  • However, tape lift samples collected from surfaces in the men’s bathroom did show signs of mold growth, specifically on the floor and lower side walls near the showers. This problem likely resulted from water spillage outside of the shower wall that sank into the floor and subfloor.  
  • We will be replacing the flooring and subflooring in the men’s bathroom by Aug.  1, including a water-impermeable layer as a waterproofing measure.

EnviraHealth confirmed the efficacy of our existing residence hall review process, which includes regularly scheduled campus-wide building reviews. The company also provided recommendations on additional proactive measures our Facilities and Residence Life teams can take as part of the care for our residence halls, and those measures are being implemented. These steps include, for example: 

  • Quarterly humidity checks within residence halls, especially during months with elevated humidity levels.
  • Using a dry-extraction method during the cleaning of carpeted areas.
  • Encouraging students with high sensitivity to allergens to use an air purifier in their residence. The Lehigh Valley is well known for having a high allergen count. People with high sensitivity to allergens will have the same reaction to allergens whether they are indoors or outdoors. 

In addition to these recommendations, the College is taking the following additional steps:

  • Enhanced training will be provided to custodial staff and resident advisers (RAs) to help ensure that needs within any building are readily reported and addressed. 
  • Communication procedures around residence hall work orders will be enhanced to ensure that affected students receive prompt updates.
  • Students will be encouraged to communicate with their RAs and follow up if they do not receive a prompt update on actions taken.
  • Students will be encouraged to take steps that can go a long way toward preventing and detecting mold.
  • While our Facilities team walks through buildings to check for issues at a minimum of two times per year, these reviews will now include Residence Life staff to increase our capacity to understand facilities needs that impact the student experience. Should issues be found, we will create an action plan and notify affected students on necessary actions and the related timeline for completing them.

The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are the College’s highest priority. We encourage everyone to report any health or safety concerns with facilities if and as you encounter them. Working together and looking out for each other, we can create the best possible environment for our great learning community.  

My best,

Audra Kahr, Executive Vice President for Finance & Administration