Mold Forces College Students to Live on Cruise Ship

For 250 students displaced from their residence halls by an outbreak of mold, leaders of St. Mary's College of Maryland took the opulent decision to put them all on a cruise ship, writes Daniel de Vise at the Washington Post.

The 286-foot-long Sea Voyager will dock at St. Mary's City on Friday to serve temporary duty as a floating dormitory for the public liberal arts school on a riverfront campus 70 miles from Washington.

The students were evacuated last week from two dorm buildings after a doctor declared them uninhabitable because of ubiquitous mold. Engineers determined that the buildings' ventilation systems were leaking water, seeding mold throughout the structures.

It didn't take long for St. Mary's, a school that defines itself as a center of scholarship and sailing, to come to the decision to put their students on a boat. An alumnus tipped off the school's president, Joseph Urgo, that the Sea Voyager was for sale and in transit, bound for Virginia. Urgo made a few phone calls, and the ship changed course toward the St. Mary's River.

"Over the years, we have often joked, ‘Wouldn't it be great to have an off-shore residence hall?' " Urgo said. "Their rooms will be a little smaller, but they'll have full use of all the amenities on the ship: the ballroom, the state room, the shuffleboard."

When the president announced in a campuswide e-mail that students would be moved to the cruise ship, which the school will be renting, some dismissed it as a hoax.

But the announcement raised spirits among those displaced, since they have not had much to cheer since the fall term started.

"I came to St. Mary's to be living on the water, and now I'll be literally living on the water," said Molly Malarkey, 18, a freshman from Ellicott City, who was biding her time at a Holiday Inn while awaiting the Sea Voyager.

A cruise ship might seem an extravagant solution for a tax-funded institution. But Urgo said that renting the vessel will cost the school a bit less than the $20,000 a day that are currently being spent on hotel bills. The relocation ordeal, not including mold clean-up, will cost as much as $1.5 million, which Urgo termed "a big hit" to the school's emergency reserves, but Urgo believes that this is, indeed, what the money is for.

Urgo said he'll spend Friday night on the ship with the students. There were still decisions to be made, such as how to fairly assign the cabins, which range in size and shape.

10 27, 2011
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