2018-19 Washington Adventist University Mold Crisis Report
In an in-depth interview for Spectrum Magazine, April Williams, former interim assistant dean of women at Washington Adventist University (WAU), recounted WAU’s mold crisis during the 2018-2019 school year. In January, 2018, Williams began having health complications due a mold outbreak in the women’s dorm, Halcyon Hall. Other infrastructure issues were apparent in her new room as well including a leaking roof and wet carpeting.
“I tried so hard and got so far…”
The Head Dean submitted requests to the Facilities Department, but they were rejected by the VP of Finance (with that spring/summer being the wettest on record). By early July, another student’s health issues led to emergency requests. Again, no response from administration. The next month, the Head Dean finally got the attention of several department heads and emergency work orders were sent. With new students arriving six days later, only four of the thirty-one affected rooms received treatment. By mid-September, it was clear the mold was out of control with more students falling ill. Professional consultation was eventually sought and short-term solutions were offered, but an anonymous tip had already been submitted to the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services stating, “mold, rats and roaches [were] observed in the Halcyon building.” The County’s September 25 report confirmed mold, structural problems, water damage, mice, rats, and cockroaches.
There’s no place like emergency housing, there’s no place like emergency housing...
On September 28, a formal evacuation notice was issued. 150+ women had mere hours to relocate their essential belongings to a local hotel amidst class schedules. When it was realized rooms needed to be totally cleared, a moving company was hired to relocate the remains. The president noted that other universities in the region were also experiencing mold outbreaks, including a mold-related death.
Sorry I’m late, the mold ate my homework
Student displacement lasted about a month, during which there was unchecked student behavior at the hotel, confusing transportation solutions affecting class attendance, problems with international students’ visas because of the address changes. Move-in was scheduled for October 22-23, but mold was still present and money was running out. Legal issues with the construction company, complications from ongoing remediation, and flooding from broken plumbing led to a flurry of inquiries from concerned parents. No official report has been released, but hotel costs were estimated at $7,000 per day, settlement claims from lost/needlessly discarded items came to $100,000, and everything totaled over $1.1 million. The head and assistant deans and two men’s dorm deans have all resigned since the incident.
Word on the street is...
Williams stated that a “system of neglect” is evident throughout the entire campus, “If this university is not shut down, I believe someone is going to lose their life.” The university maintains it acted promptly and responsibly. However, conditions of Halcyon Hall are still being disputed by many.
Continued Adventist responses to recent U.S. shootings
After the recent U.S. shootings, Adventist Community Services (ACS) is responding with positive attitudes and helping hands in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. Local Adventist community organizer, Marshall Gonzales, reached out to the NAD in order to seek help on how to proceed and provide relief for affected families. After meetings with the Red Cross, ACS Director W. Derrick Lea was able to obtain emotional and spiritual care certification for ACS bilingual responders in El Paso. In Dayton, Andrew Mobley partnered with Kettering Medical Center to empower chaplains serving those in the hurting community.
Adventist Today’s Aunt Sevvy Column Sparks Debate
A recent response in an advice column sparked heated debate on social media. A 23-year-old woman wrote to Adventist Today’s anonymous “Aunt Sevvy” to ask for guidance on coming out as a lesbian to her church and parents. In response, Aunt Sevvy stated that homosexuality is “something that you are, not something that you choose.” She also claimed the texts regarding homosexuality in the Bible refer to “pagan worship” and do not address “loving, monogamous, and faithful” homosexual relationships. Aunt Sevvy suggested the woman check out SDA Kinship International for support and seek an inclusive, Adventist congregation. This column received 550+ comments when it was posted on Adventist Today’s Facebook page. While many liked her inclusive position, others disagreed with her advice, as they claim it is not in accordance with the official church statement on homosexuality. (In April of 2018, the North American Division released a resource called Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones.)
Contributors: Ryan Becker, Jose Briones, Kristen Browning, Andrew Carroll
Editors: Ryan Becker, Kevin Christenson