Around early fall every year, students in universities across the country seem to come down with various mysterious illnesses, deemed ‘plagues.’ These illnesses are typically due to various factors, such as being around new groups of people, not sleeping as much, or using communal spaces. This year, at Bucknell, students can’t help but wonder if their ‘plague’ is caused by a new discovery: mold.
Starting around mid-September, students in various dorms around Bucknell’s campus began to notice mold spreading either on their AC vents, closet dorms, clothes, and even bed comforters. After enough reports, school officials got involved and began investigating which dorms were infected; alarmingly, these dorms included Vedder Hall, Hunt Hall, Swartz Hall, and even an apartment on West campus. As the number of cases rose, the school jumped into action and began the long process of cleaning rooms.
The first step in remediating the buildings was testing the air for toxicity. When results came back with no evidence of black mold or any other toxic variety, members of the facilities team inspected and cleaned HVAC units in the dorms, and other aspects of the rooms that might have been exposed. In order to further clean the rooms, air purifiers were distributed to infected rooms, as well as every room in some dorms, such as in Hunt Hall. Some rooms even experienced further cleaning by custodians, such as having the surfaces of their furniture wiped down.
What seemed to be spreading faster than the mold were rumors that the campus-wide illnesses were in fact due to the presence of mold. A statement released by the school assured that “Bucknell Student Health has not diagnosed student illnesses directly related to mold.” While this may be true, it is a strange coincidence that the discovery of mold coincided with such severe sickness – the same sickness that also began to dissipate once the rooms were cleaned and purified. During the time in which all of this was occurring, students remained in the same buildings that the mold was found in, and countless struggled to obtain appointments with the student health center.
Some speculate that the presence of COVID on campus may be a contributing factor. Most students are not used to being in larger groups, and therefore have not experienced different immune systems in multiple months. This is more likely the cause of the spread of illness, but it is still suspicious given the circumstances (i.e. the presence of mold). While both the Bucknell plague and infestation of mold seem to be clearing up, there’s no telling what other campus-wide outbreaks may arise in the future.