JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM is investigating student complaints of rodents, mold and extreme temperatures in dorms at Edward Waters University.
They say on-campus conditions, especially in dorms, aren’t satisfactory or safe. They’re demanding change at the private, historically Black university in Jacksonville.
The students have taken videos and photos of the problems they said they’ve been dealing with on campus.
“Would you allow your child to live in these types of conditions?” asked Na’im Brown, a senior at the university.
Brown told the I-TEAM that some rooms don’t have working heating or cooling. He started the Campus Activism Coalition with other students, and they have a list of demands for school leaders.
“One of the main concerns is tuition,” said Kayla Newton, an EWU senior. “We have sent out a request to the president and to SGA (student government association) in regards to lowering tuition for the school due to the fact that we are being pushed to online learning.”
Newton said she understands the school has chosen to hold classes online during the pandemic, but it’s not the full student experience, so she says the $22,000 tuition should be lower.
“My concerns are our living conditions,” said Asia Parker, a junior at the university.
Parker said she relies on the school for housing, but she’s sharing a subpar hotel room with a roommate near the airport as there isn’t enough space in the dorms. A shuttle brings them to campus. Parker said she’s reached out to administrators to share her concerns.
“We’ve put in — students have put in work orders — myself, you know, I’ve, we’ve let them know about what’s been going on,” Parker said.
As soon as News4JAX learned of their concerns through an email, the I-TEAM called school administrators. Hours later, they offered a campus tour, taking us to three different buildings, showing what they’ve done, giving us a brief look at select rooms. We didn’t notice any problems.
Then we spoke with Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr., the university president. He said like other places in the area, there will be challenges.
“We experience microbial growth because of the air – there’s moisture – that’s not something that’s unique to Edward Waters,” Faison Jr. said.
He told the I-TEAM that the school fixed the problems he’s aware of and staff is constantly working with student government, trying to keep up with maintenance.
“What we’ve done is immediately respond to those, have whatever programs we have in place addressed and fixed so that our students can continue their studies in an environment that’s conducive to their learning,” Faison Jr. said.
The students said they want a better university for future undergrads.
“We could easily say, well, look, we’re about to graduate. You know, that’s somebody else’s problem,” Brown said. “But it’s definitely deeper than that... I love my institution to the core, I love this school to the core. And there’s no way that I can, you know, feel right, knowing that students were coming into an environment like this and nothing was being done, or not enough is being done.”
It’s a mission the students say they’ll continue to pursue.