RALEIGH - About 125 St. Augustine's College students marched to the State Capitol on Monday, protesting what they described as mold in their dorm rooms, invasions of their privacy and an unsafe campus environment.
One student leader at Monday's protest said several students complained of illness from mold growing in their dormitory.
David Affarenee, a sophomore, said there is mold and mildew on the walls inside Weston Hall and Baker Hall. A third dorm, Boyer Hall, is infested with roaches and waterbugs, students said.
"They just paint over all the mold and mildew," Affarenee said. "Some kids have gotten sick."
A school official confirmed Monday that one of the dorms did have mold in 2004 but that it was cleaned out.
According to a 2004 report school officials released Monday, two species of mold were found in the air supply and air handling vents of the men's dormitory Boyer Hall by an environmental consultant the college hired. The molds, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium, can cause respiratory difficulties and skin reactions in people with allergies or asthma.
The consultant, General Engineering and Environmental of N.C., based in Research Triangle Park, found that the inner lining of a hot water tank in Boyer Hall could cause skin irritation to those who used its water.
The ducts in Boyer Hall were cleaned, and the water tank was replaced, college spokeswoman Katrina Dix said Monday.
St. Augustine's President Dianne B. Suber said the "mold" students are concerned about is "mostly mildew." But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, mildew, like mold, is a fungus and can cause health problems.
"We have old buildings. They do get damp," Suber said.
Last year, the RTP consultant found no evidence of environmental issues at the co-ed dorm Weston Hall, and determined that the mildew in the bathrooms and shower areas was the result of hot water and humidity.
The consultant also inspected the school's fine arts building for mold when an employee complained of skin rashes after working in a particular area. Mold was found, but at levels not normally associated with skin or respiratory irritation, according to General Engineering and Environmental's report. The college cleaned the building's air ducts.
St. Augustine's is the second Triangle university in recent years bedeviled by mold problems. In 2003, two newly built residence halls at N.C. Central University in Durham were closed after potentially toxic black mold was found.
The demonstration Monday occurred one day after St. Aug's, a historically black college with 1,400 students, kicked off its homecoming week celebrations on campus.
The students -- some clad in black with some carrying signs demanding change -- began marching off campus near the Emery Gymnasium about 10:30 a.m. They gathered on a sidewalk in the 1300 block of Oakwood Avenue before marching downtown to the State Capitol.
As they assembled, leaders who said they were speaking on behalf of the student body listed other issues that had ignited their activism. They said they were also concerned about campus safety, especially after what they described as a gang-related brawl last year between students and about 20 nonstudent members of the Bloods street gang.
"Nothing was done about it," Affarenee said.
Marc Newman, the college's vice president of institutional advancement and development, said the altercation was not gang-related, did not involve 20 people and that the campus does not have a gang problem.
"Why is it anytime there's an altercation between black men, it's a gang-related fight?" Newman asked. "There's no graffiti here, and no people walking around in crazy colors," he added. "When you walk around this campus, you see nothing dealing with gangs."
The students also complained about privacy issues. They said campus police and administrators routinely check their rooms for campus violations, mainly drugs.
"They are doing drug checks five days a week, three times a day, morning, noon and night," said Philip Ativie, a junior business administration major from Alexandria, Va.
Suber could not confirm or deny the frequency of room checks but acknowledged the college has stepped up its vigilance to stop the flow of drugs on campus, partly in response to student complaints about drugs in the residence halls.
"I think parents would want to know that we are checking rooms to make the campus a healthy and stable environment," Suber said.
Affarenee said that, in the past, students have written Suber letters and filed petitions asking the administration to look into the unsafe conditions at the dorms.
Some students were not impressed with Monday's protest.
Senior Class President Christal Sims, 23, of Raleigh said positive changes have occurred on campus since her freshman year.
"We have new computers, new desks, more security, new cafe services and now, a new residential hall," Sims said.
Suber watched the demonstrations from the windows of her office in the Boyer Building.
"There's a little piece of me that's proud and pleased," Suber said about the demonstration. "I am a product of the '60s, and I value being heard."