The Young Democratic Socialists of America launched their housing campaign on Wednesday evening on the steps of the Rotunda. Members participated in power mapping activities, assembled mold prevention kits for students in need and delivered a letter of their grievances to the home of university president Jim Ryan in Carr’s Hill.
Sam Amos, a sophomore at the College and a YDSA member, stressed the importance of the protest as a way to show support for students facing these issues.
“We must not only educate, but show that we are with all those who are struggling with housing at the moment and [show] that within the University there are groups that are here for the students and here for the people and are 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 stating “RAs are workers,” “free laundry now,” and “private dorms should be private.”
Participants also assembled bags with YDSA brochures, personalized notes and mold prevention resources, including gloves 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 on the lawn.
The campaign’s central demands are that the University remove all mold from infected dormitories, provide stipends to RAs in addition to pre-existing housing and meal plans, remove all security cameras by December 1, and provide a free laundry to all students living on the grounds.
Throughout the semester, various dorms—especially those in older buildings—saw incidents mold exposure, often in air conditioners or hot, humid spaces. Many students living in affected dormitories experienced undiagnosed respiratory problems.
An email to residents in the field sent Thursday by Housing and Residence Life said the University had taken “immediate action” to eliminate isolated cases of mold and mildew in residence halls, and provides a list of best practices. recommended to prevent both from occurring.
“We have confirmed that there is no evidence of widespread or systematic mold problems in residence halls,” the email states.
Beyond eliminating all reported mold, YDSA requires the University to install industrial-grade dehumidifiers in dormitories with mold outbreaks, overhaul existing HVAC systems, and compensate students hospitalized for mold problems.
For Nick Gentry, a third-year College student and YDSA member, the impact of housing issues on the ground goes beyond just University members, as students are neighbors to the Charlottesville community.
“Because of student housing issues…students are incentivized to live above ground, and then students living above ground drive up housing prices for all of Charlottesville,” Gentry said.
Nearly 70% of students choose to live above ground. As a result, housing prices for students and community members have been leads depending on the level of demand. YDSA rally comes amid recent proposals to mandate sophomores living on the grounds, potentially increasing the scope of the current state of housing.
In addition to mold and housing issues, event organizers also discussed the recent installed security cameras in the dorms before the start of the semester. As they moved in this semester, the students were greeted with newly installed security cameras in the hallways of their dorms. Housing and Residence Life cited that the decision to install cameras stems from the desire to increase safety and reduce damage.
Freshman College student and YDSA member Olivia Bent said she believes activism is essential to maintaining a healthy college community here at the University, which is why she chose to participate. at the event.
“I think it’s important to improve the institution that you attend 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 and try to improve your community,” Bent said.