Following Barstool Gamecocks' Instagram video of a mushroom growing on a ceiling tile on Capstone’s 15th floor surfacing, residents of the building said there has been a continued mold problem in the residence hall.
In an email addressed to a set of concerned parents following the mushroom video, a university housing employee assured the mold problem had been dealt with and conditions in Capstone were tested and determined insusceptible for mold to grow.
“There is no mold in Capstone or any of our other buildings on campus,” the email said.
Students such as first-year business student and Capstone resident Sam Chierici, however, say the conditions are just right for mold to grow, as there is always a lot of condensation and they cannot control temperature with the thermostat.
“If the conditions are there for mold to grow, mold’s gonna grow,” said Skylar Deichmann, a first-year sport and entertainment management student and Capstone resident. “If it's humid, like, you know, you take a shower in the bathroom, and then the whole suite gets super muggy.”
Some students have also reported sickness they say is due to the mold.
A second-year student, who lived in the Capstone House her first year and has asked to remain anonymous, said she got sick from the mold all over the 15th floor of the building.
“I was somewhat sick the first semester, but I just thought it was a cold, and I went home and I got better,” she said. “I came back in January and within the first two weeks, I believe, I got pneumonia and bronchitis at the same time.”
When she got bronchitis again this year, she went to the USC Health Center. She said the doctor told her it was probably because of the mold in Capstone and that many students came in with the same issues.
She said she now must take an inhaler to help her breathe.
Deichmann said she is fairly certain she has a mold allergy, and every time she gets into the shower, where the mold is, she starts to sneeze.
“We’ve all been sick for months,” Julia Asiello, a first-year visual communications student and Capstone resident, said. “One kid I know is really, really sick. Some people have really bad mold allergies; everyone can’t stop coughing.”
Other students, such as Chierici, said it could either be mold or just the “freshman plague” making everyone sick.
University spokesperson Jeff Stensland said while mold sensitivities might play a part in student sickness, this part of the semester is traditionally tough on students, which makes it easier for them to get sick.
“That’s not to discount concerns, only to say we are in the season when people tend to get sick regardless,” Stensland said.
Deichmann said she thinks ventilation is a large contributor to the mold and that Capstone "needs a new ventilation system," as mold has grown on her window and in the ceiling around her shower.
To prevent mold from growing in residence hall rooms, Stensland said to circulate air, shut the windows when it is wet or humid outside and not store damp clothing or towels in the room.
Chierici said he and his roommate found a large amount of mold when they moved a dresser and bed from the wall. They reached out to FIXX, and though FIXX cleaned the mold, Chierici said his room now smells "like straight bleach,” and he was unable to sleep in his own room after FIXX cleaned it.
Some students have reached out to FIXX to address the mold situation in Capstone. Asiello said when the FIXX employee came to her room, they confirmed there was mold.
“We had black mold in our room, growing on our window and around our sink and in our bathroom,” Asiello said.
FIXX sealed Asiello’s window, got her a new sink and caulked it, scrubbed down her walls with an antimicrobial cleaner and replaced her bathroom ceiling tiles.
Asiello said college students don’t know much about mold, and she said she believes university housing should make residents "more aware" the mold will grow if they do not pay attention to it. She also said a lot of people don't know calling FIXX is an option.
“Any time actual mold is detected, we treat with an antimicrobial cleaner and check the room temperature and humidity to deter future growth and see if there may be water leakage, which encourages mold growth,” Stensland said. “[Students] should immediately contact the FIXX line when they suspect that mold may be in their rooms.”
While FIXX is able to help the students who reach out, some Capstone residents said university housing has not contacted them about potential mold problems.
Many parents have heard of the conditions in their children’s rooms, and some have taken to Facebook to voice concerns, including Richard Day, father of Liam Day, a first-year undeclared student living in Capstone, who posted on the 2023 USC Parents’ Facebook page.
“Really what’s more startling is the comments from parents,” Day said. “Somebody said, ‘Yeah, Capstone is known as the tower of terror,’ and then another mom said ‘Yeah, my daughter has what is known as the 'Capstone cough.’"