Photo courtesy of Sam Hannon

There has never been any doubt that the start of the fall semester breeds germs, coughs, colds and all the like, especially when the whole world has spent over a year wearing masks, social distancing and at some points isolating in the confines of their own homes. Yet some students have suspected something all the more unexpected as the root cause of ongoing coughs and colds: the AC units. 

Across campus, there have been rumblings and mumblings about dirt-ridden and mold filled AC units. Sometimes with on-campus life, it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction, but there are a number of students who have photo evidence, in addition to their ongoing illnesses.

Sam Hannon is one such student. Hannon, who lives in Gloucester Hall, had an ongoing cough for about two weeks. He therefore suspected that his AC could be causing the problem, having heard a number of students having had their AC cleaned out.

Upon opening the unit, he saw it was covered in thick black grime and dust.

“If I had to guess it hadn’t been cleaned in about a year,” he said.

 When Hannon emailed ResLife about the issue, they came immediately the next day to clean it out.  While he still is experiencing some of his symptoms, he is convinced that the unsightly condition of the AC unit had something to do with it. Hannon obtained no reply from ResLife, but they quickly rushed in to clean it, and never offered any apology.

Hannon is not the only one.

Hope Forcellina and her roommates had a similar issue in Hawthorne Hall. They all developed colds and coughs over the first few weeks of the fall semester. While Hope went home to try and recover her roommate Kaili decided that it could have been the air in the room.

She describes the AC grate as, "covered in green mold and dirt," and showed pictures of the images. Forcellina says that her parents, along with her roommates’ parents were "very upset" that their daughters were living in such conditions, and they contacted ResLife immediately.

ResLife apologized and came to clean it immediately, as well as cleaning all the vents in Peter Frates Hall, of whom many students were facing the same problem. Forcellina said that her doctor advised that it was likely the green mold that was contributing to her ongoing symptoms, and when the vents were cleared out, her symptoms cleared up. She mentioned that friends and classmates in Gloucester and Marblehead have also experienced similar problems.

Bryan Cain, Vice President of Student Affairs, said that he was surprised to hear that there were numerous problems with ACs across campus, and said that they had only had one formal complaint about dirt and grime in the AC. Cain said he is always made aware of any complaints made to ResLife. He added that AC vents are cleaned annually and that a collection of dirt is normal, he even suggested his own AC was in the same condition. When asked whether students should be more vocal or active in reporting a problem, his agreement was enthusiastic, and he said it is important for him and his team to be made aware of problems.