Scobey mold issue vacate faculty members


Faculty members experiencing mold-related reactions in Scobey Hall are moving out — this time permanently.

Two faculty members have moved from the building into a different office said Michael Keller, an English professor in the bottom level of Scobey Hall and vice president of the Faculty Senate. Plans have been made to place air filtration units for staff requesting them and to build new windows to spur air circulation in the 70-year-old building on the west side of campus.

In the meantime, an indoor air quality policy revamp is in the works, Senate President Robert Watrel said. The University’s Environmental Health and Safety office plans to emulate an air safety program at the University of North Carolina for its improved, and more aware, complaint filing and resolving system. A separate office to coordinate the required paperwork could also be created, Watrel said, and a complete proposal could be finished by the beginning of Spring Semester.

It’s the start of a solution that may see consistent stopgap measures until construction of more office buildings eventually rendering Scobey Hall useless.

“I would just ask that we get a little bit more time in completing the process and coming up with a more thought-out resolution for this,” Watrel said at the Senate meeting Oct. 26.

Two weeks ago, SDSU Faculty Senate reserved an open discussion on its agenda to work conditions in some buildings on campus. It brought to light a confusing, uneasily accessed system of filing complaints, crippling health issues for some faculty susceptible to the effects of mold and an underlying fear of speaking up to administrators.

“We’re very happy with how it’s gone so far,” Keller said of the process, “The administration’s been great about it.”

The process is far from over. Dean Kattelmann, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Services, advised that classrooms 026 and 020 in the basement of Scobey Hall be closed down.

The classrooms were recently transformed into “smart” classrooms equipped with projector screens and computer equipment totaling thousands of dollars. Keller said it’s uncertain what will become of the equipment if and when the rooms close down. Compounding the problem was EHS office information apparently being lost during its transfer to the new SDSU website.

“And (the classrooms are) in use, pretty much 9 to 5,” he said.

Student Association President Mark York was at the Faculty Senate meeting Oct. 26, and said a matter of students’ prolonged exposure to mold in Scobey is something he thinks the association could consider.

“Truth be told, I think it’s something we need to look more into,” York said. “(Dean) Kattelmann recommended they be evacuated, and yet they’re still being used.”

Some faculty also don’t want to move to a different office away from their respective departments throughout Scobey. Substituted office space is also at a limit, Keller said.

The building was constructed in 1940 as a residence hall before switching to faculty offices and classrooms in the ‘70s. Since then, infrastructural changes have been made to the roof and plumbing system, among other changes. The building was also without running hot water for decades.

The start of modifying and improving policy addressing problems with the building’s air quality has been warmly welcomed.

“After our meeting last week, I ran up to third floor and talked to about half of the people that were concerned,” Keller said. “They were all happy and grateful that we’ve gotten progress on this – that looks very promising.”