Young Democratic Socialists of America launched its housing campaign Wednesday evening on the steps of the Rotunda. Members participated in power mapping activities, assembled mold prevention packages for students in need and delivered a letter of their grievances to University President Jim Ryan’s home at Carr’s Hill.
Sam Amos, second-year College student and member of YDSA, stressed the importance of the demonstration as a way to show support for students facing these issues.
“We need to not only educate but show that we are with everyone who is struggling with housing right now and [show] that within the University there are groups that are here for students and here for people and rocking the boat,” Amos said.
YDSA members formed small groups to map the actors responsible for various housing decisions in a “power-mapping” activity, after which organizers made signs declaring “RAs are workers,” “free laundry now” and “private dorms should be private.”
Participants also assembled bags with YDSA pamphlets, personalized notes and mold prevention resources including glove and moisture absorbing bags. At the end of the event, organizers marched to Carr’s Hill to deliver a letter of protest to Jim Ryan’s home and post their signs in the front lawn.
The campaign’s central demands are that the University remove all mold from infected dorms, pay RAs stipends in addition to pre-existing housing and meal plans, remove all security cameras by Dec. 1 and provide free laundry to all students living on Grounds.
Throughout the semester, various dorms — particularly those housed in older buildings — have seen incidents of mold exposure, often in air conditioning units or warm, humid spaces. Many students living in affected dorms have experienced undiagnosed respiratory issues.
An email to on-Grounds residents sent Thursday from Housing and Residence Life said the University has taken “immediate action” to eliminate isolated cases of mold and mildew in residence halls, and provides a list of recommended practices in order to prevent both from occuring.
“We have confirmed that there is no evidence of widespread or systematic mold and mildew issues in the residence halls,” the email reads.
Beyond removing all reported mold, YDSA is demanding that the University install industrial-grade dehumidifiers in dorms with mold outbreaks, overhaul existing HVAC systems and compensate students hospitalized for mold issues.
For Nick Gentry, third-year College student and member of YDSA, the impact of on-Grounds housing issues go beyond just members of the University, as students are neighbors with the Charlottesville community.
“Because of the problems with student housing … students are incentivised to live off Grounds, and then students living off Grounds increase housing prices for all of Charlottesville,” Gentry said.
Close to 70 percent of students opt to live off Grounds. As a result, housing prices for students and community members have been driven up by the level of demand. YDSA’s rally comes amidst recent proposals to mandate second-years living on Grounds, potentially increasing the scope of the current housing condition.
In addition to mold and housing issues, organizers of the event also discussed the recently installed security cameras in dorms prior to the start of the semester. Upon moving in this semester, students were met with newly installed security cameras in their dorm hallways. Housing and Residence Life cited that the decision to install cameras arises from the desire to increase safety and reduce damages.
Olivia Bent, first-year College student and member of YDSA, said she believes activism is critical to sustaining a healthy academic community here at the University which is why she chose to participate in the event.
“I think it’s important to improve the institution that you participate in because if you’re a student, you’re not just someone who goes here and just goes through the motions and just graduates, you participate in and try to improve your community,” Bent said.