Mold notebook: Which S.C. colleges had most mold reports



Location: Charleston

Enrollment (rounded): 2,300

After a newsworthy mold outbreak in 2017, The Citadel installed dehumidifiers in every cadet's room.

The school said temperature sensors had been improperly placed in rooms, creating unneeded moisture problems - and mold. Those sensors have since been moved, the school said.

Since 2020, The Citadel recorded 16 reports of mold, according to the college. Most appeared to be minor cases in bathrooms and under sinks.


Location: Charleston

Enrollment (rounded): 11,000

College of Charleston had the second-highest tally of complaints among South Carolina's public higher education institutions, with 422 reports during the past two years.

Housing officials said 119 of those reports were "founded," meaning staff found mold present. The rest were determined to be cases of students mistaking mold for other things, including dust and rust.

Of the 422 complaints, McAlister Hall had the most with 108. Of those, 37 were confirmed. With more than 500 beds, McAlister Hall is among the largest dorms on campus and is being renovated. Berry Hall had 91 mold reports, including 30 that the university confirmed. College Lodge had 28 reports, of which five were founded.

Kelly House had 52, with 23 founded cases. The building's repair records show the challenges of identifying and ridding rooms of mold. An inspection in October 2021 by a private contractor found high amounts of cladosporium in air ducts, a problem that a previous cleaning hadn't solved. Mold also was found on walls, cabinets and windows.

College officials spent more than $78,000 on mold remediation contractors and inspectors during the past two years, records show.


Location: Conway

Enrollment (rounded): 10,400

Coastal Carolina had at least 220 mold-related complaints during the past two years spread across a campus with about 4,600 beds.

Blue Ridge, Ingle Hall, Piedmont Hall and Eaglin Hall saw the most mold complaints.

Said one Blue Ridge resident: "Everyone in my room is experiencing symptoms of black mold. After looking in our air vents I found that they are absolutely disgusting." Students have posted comments on social media about mold and the "coastal cough," generating tens of thousands of views.

Steve Harrison, CCU's vice president for auxiliary services, said the university works with a company to test for potential microbial growth in all residence halls at least twice a year.


Location: Clemson

Enrollment (rounded): 26,400

Clemson had more than 320 reports related to mold during the past two years, with its Lightsey Bridge 1 and 2 complex leading the pack with nearly 70 cases, followed by Calhoun Courts with 36.


Location: Florence

Enrollment (rounded): 4,300

Francis Marion manages nearly 600 housing units on its campus. During the past two years, the school logged 184 complaints about mold, according to internal university records. A sample:

"BLACK MOLD!!! In bathroom. We have allergies and it needs to be fixed ASAP."

"The mold in my room has become so bad that I do not feel safe staying on campus. The mold is in the carpet, around my air vent and on the ceiling."

"Hello, I was going through my closet and discovered mold ... I'm allergic to mold. It has even got on a pair of my shoes."

University spokesman John Sweeney said all mold issues were handled by the university's maintenance staff, and that they involved "surface level cleanings."

The university didn't hire outside companies to address mold, he said. The school sees roughly twice as many mold reports during the fall semester than the spring, work orders show.


Location: Greenville

Enrollment (rounded): 2,600

News reports in 2021 described how several Furman students were affected by mold exposures, including one who said she ended up in a hospital because of a reaction. The school later said independent inspectors had found only a limited amount of mold.

The Paladin, the school's newspaper, last spring did an in-depth investigation into mold in a dorm. A reporter polled 26 residents in one apartment block; 20 noted visible mold in their living spaces.

School officials told The Post and Courier that six dorm units had mold issues in the previous two years. The school said it spent $18,302 for cleaning services, which ranged from wiping down surfaces to cleaning duct work.

Students caused most issues, officials said, by not correctly setting thermostats or by failing to run bathroom vent fans.


Location: Sumter

Enrollment (rounded): 400

John Harrell, a Charleston attorney, said his experience suing this private college in Sumter opened his eyes to what he believes is a national crisis.

He filed a lawsuit in late 2017 alleging that moldy dorms sickened students. The suit said the school should have warned students which dorms had mold issues and that officials ignored students' pleas for help.

The lawsuit sought $55 million in damages - a hefty number for a small school. Harrell said he mainly asked for that amount as a wake-up call.

He said Morris officials approached the situation "as if it didn't happen here."

For this report, college President Leroy Staggers told The Sumter Item that the school has corrected its mold issues.

It hired a mold contractor to remediate campus buildings, he said. The school also trained and certified its five maintenance staffers to address mold outbreaks.

In 2020, Morris students and administrators settled the lawsuit - for an undisclosed amount.

Overall, Harrell said he was left feeling that mold would emerge as a major source of litigation. "One of the most interesting parts of the case was that other schools approached us saying, 'Us too.' I really believe mold is widespread and affects thousands of students."


Location: Rock Hill

Enrollment (rounded): 5,200

Winthrop had more than 270 reports of mold in dorm rooms during the past two years, highlighting the challenge of keeping up older buildings.

Examples of what maintenance crews documented:

From January 2022 in Courtyard: "Resident in bedroom B states that there is mold growing from their air vent in the bedroom, which is causing an allergic reaction."

From Lee Wicker Hall in August 2020: "One of the beds has mold growing on it."

From Richardson in February 2021: "There is visible mildew growth on the ceiling to the left side of the space above the resident's bed. Resident has continued health issues."

University officials said that Richardson and Wofford, two halls built in the mid-1960s, have been closed as part of a campus revitalization plan. The buildings will be demolished and replaced. Those older dorms house more than 760 beds.

James Grigg, associate vice president for facilities management, said the state's "hot and humid summers cause many challenges to institutions as they maintain indoor air environments," along with old HVAC or ventilation units.


Locations: Aiken, Beaufort-area, Spartanburg

When first asked for mold-related documents, USC Aiken (3,500 students, rounded) initially demanded that The Post and Courier pay nearly $3,700 to fulfill an open records request. After the newspaper narrowed the scope of its request, the university said it had five documented mold complaints during the past two years.

USC Upstate in Spartanburg (6,000 students, rounded) reported 16 mold cases.

USC Beaufort (2,000 students, rounded) reported 31 across its three campuses in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. Examples of student complaints there:

"Walls behind fridge are coated with mold. Mold ruined a pillow I had sitting on my desk."

"Mold in bathroom. My roommate and I are very allergic to mold."

"There is black mold on the ceiling over the shower and I have asthma. So I cannot be around this."

Bruce Mills of The (Sumter) Item contributed to this report.