‘Housing quite literally takes mold as a joke’: Ongoing lawsuit echoes student experiences

The UP has been covering mold in the dorms since 2017. Some students say they are getting sick and think the university is neglecting the issue.


Mold in Benjamin Maggio’s bathroom

Savannah Peifer and Jessica Abramsky

Mold has been a common complaint among students who live on campus. Benjamin Maggio once lived in Glades Park Towers, and the Boca Raton native is now mired in a years-long lawsuit alleging the university failed to respond to his concerns to the detriment of his health.

Maggio is suing Florida Atlantic University because of what his doctor says will be “lifelong medical issues due to mold in his dorm” in the 2017-18 school year. Maggio, who is currently enrolled in online classes, filed the lawsuit on Nov. 17, 2019.

Maggio claims the university neglected his health after he and his mother repeatedly reported mold to the Department of Housing and Residential Education (HRE). His prolonged exposure to mold caused his health to deteriorate, his attorneys claim, and he will need medical care for the rest of his life.

The lawsuit states Maggio noticed mold growing in his dorm bathroom in October 2017 and contacted HRE on two separate occasions to report it. He claims the university did nothing until his mother contacted them in February 2018.

When contacted for comment, HRE’s contracts and assignments coordinator Michelle Olearczyk directed the UP to contact Joshua Glanzer, the university’s associate Vice President of Media Relations. 

FAU spokesperson Lisa Metcalf declined to comment citing pending litigation.  

According to a March 2018 work order, maintenance staff used bleach to “remove” the mold and Kilz Primer to “cover” the mold. 

The UP requested several work orders involving mold from the university, but did not receive them by time of publication.

FAU added Mold and Mildew Prevention to the HRE website, which includes a link to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website and a place to submit a request.

Dawn Maggio, Benjamin Maggio’s mother, believes this was added in July 2022 — but the UP could not independently verify her claims.

The EPA argues against the use of bleach when treating mold and recommends the proper way to mitigate it is to increase ventilation and take measures to lower humidity.

Representatives from C-BB Management, the company responsible for providing maintenance, directed the UP to Glanzer, who declined to comment citing pending litigation. Representatives from FAU’s Environmental Health and Safety Office also directed the UP to Glanzer.

Benjamin Maggio claims the mold returned in April 2018. His doctor later diagnosed him with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome caused by Water Damaged Buildings (CIRS-WDB).

“At all relevant times, FAU owed a duty to protect Plaintiff’s health and well-being by maintaining his dorm room in a reasonably safe condition. FAU breached its duty of care owed to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit read. 

In responses filed in court to Benjamin Maggio’s lawsuit, FAU and C-BB Management have denied his allegations.

“Maggio so carelessly and negligently conducted himself and/or was in violation of statutes, ordinances, or standards of care so as to proximately cause or contribute to the alleged incident, injuries, or damages alleged in Maggio’s complaint,” according to a response C-BB Management filed. 

Benjamin Maggio said he initially tried to come back to campus, but he suffered from panic attacks and trouble regulating his body temperature. He doesn’t plan to return. He is currently enrolled in fully online classes and hopes to obtain his degree soon.

Mold found in a bathroom in the Arts and Letters building

According to a timeline Benjamin Maggio’s mother provided, he relapsed after a visit to the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“Right when March of 2018 happened, I was losing the ability to walk. It became a very physical thing. I lost a pretty dramatic amount of weight. I couldn’t walk again until September of 2018,” Benjamin Maggio said. 

Benjamin Maggio developed symptoms that will affect him for the rest of his life. He relapses whenever he comes in contact with mold, which makes routine activities like visiting a theater or restaurant difficult.

The court proceedings are set to take place in March 2023.

Current Dorm Issues

Kennedy Koller, a student living in Heritage Park Towers (HPT), believes mold in her dorm has caused her to be sick since August. She is currently experiencing respiratory issues.

“I was actually in the E.R. for two days and I think it’s because of the mold,” Koller said. “I think that’s why I’m still sick.” 

Koller and her roommate submitted three work orders to HRE, and her roommate’s mother spoke with staff a few times. Her mother claims staff told her there is no mold in her dorm. 

HPT resident Chloe Bowe shared that housing staff informed her they will not do anything unless residents can prove there is mold in their dorms. 

A Parliament Hall resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the university, says she contacted HRE multiple times because she thinks there is mold in her dorm and nothing has been done.

She said the first time HRE came, they wiped the air conditioning vents down. She says they then denied the mold and blamed the smell of mold on her cat’s fur. 

The second time staff came to her dorm, they informed her there was “no microbial growth” and what she thought was mold was “wet dust and cat hair.” They did not resolve the issue or check other vents, she said.

She says she has been sick for weeks. She has tested negative for strep throat, COVID-19, and the flu, but is still concerned about mold being the cause.

Student Body President Pierce Kennamer wrote in an email he “heard rumors” about mold in the dorms as students have not directly informed him about it, but said it’s “definitely a huge issue.”

Dalia Calvillo, the student body vice president, wrote in a statement that students have not directly contacted her about this issue, but she is willing to discuss alternatives to “combat” it.

A resident assistant who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the university, says they has also been sick and had a rash since RA training before the fall semester began. Their work supervisor suggested she submit a work order to HRE.

“I’ve been trying to ignore it because Housing quite literally takes mold as a joke,” she said.

The RA said that several residents have come to her saying they think there is mold in their dorms. 

“[The RAs] are doing what we can to try and make sure [students] are in a safe space because we’re also living in the same spaces as you guys, but it’s not taken seriously,” they said. “They take every step possible to avoid bringing out an environmental team to take care of the mold.”

The RA claimed to have seen housing officials mock the presence of mold in the dorms.

“I have seen higher ups laugh about it, which is kind of sad. It’s just always written off,” said the RA. 

The RAs submitted work orders before students returned to campus for the fall and the RA claims no one came to assess their mold claims. 

“I never saw a mold team come out for any of the claims we had put in prior to residents moving in,” the RA said.

“I’m perfectly willing to just go through the trial and just see where the chips fall because for me, this can’t continue to go on for other students,” Dawn Maggio said. “There’s a lot of kids out there that are probably struggling and don’t even know why they are.”

Savannah Peifer is the social media manager for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @ginger.savvy

Jessica Abramsky is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information on this article or others, you can reach Jessica at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @jessabramsky.