JCSU official aggressively responds to mold questions

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An official at Johnson C. Smith University aggressively responded to questions about a mold problem by hitting and grabbing a FOX 46 camera.

Sherri Belfield, the director of university communications and marketing, aggressively responded to questions about a mold problem by hitting and grabbing a FOX 46 camera. 

It was this question - "What do you have to say to students who are dealing with this mold issue?" - that caused Belfield to place her hand on the camera. She previously tried to hide her face from a reporter. 

FOX 46 invited several frustrated students to bring their concerns straight to university officials. Students complain about ongoing black mold problems in campus dorms.

"My situation has been going on since Aug. 16," one student said. "Why was my situation just handled yesterday?"

"Is that acceptable?," asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.

"Well, do you know what is acceptable?," said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Tami Simmons, "The fact that Johnson C. Smith University takes the health of our students very seriously."

But Xena Dove says the university didn't care about her health. Dove, who has asthma, says she complained about the water damage in her New Residence Hall dorm for two months before it was fixed. 

"It was making me cough a lot," said Dove. "And my eyes were swelling up."

Her sister and roommate, Xana, says she also became ill. She has now hired an attorney.

"My body was getting weak," she said. "My face was getting red. I was fatigued."

The university blames heavy rain and the two hurricanes for the mold problems and are promising to fix it. This comes as more students complain to FOX 46 saying they have been dealing with black mold since the summer.

RELATED: Disgusting dorm conditions found at Johnson C. Smith University, officials blame weather

This isn't the first time the university has dealt with mold problems. Last year, mailroom employees sued in federal court, alleging they became ill after being exposed to mold at work. 

When FOX 46 started asking questions, university officials ushered the students we brought to meet them away.

"We can go inside and talk ladies," said Belfield, placing her hand on one student's back. "Come on."

Despite the school's mission to help students "communicate effectively," the students said they were told not to talk to reporters. They did anyway. 


"Are you dealing with an ongoing mold issue?," asked Grant.

"We are not dealing with the ongoing mold issue," said Simmons. "We are handling the welfare of our students case-by-case."

And, aggressively handling our questions, on behalf of students who want to be heard.

"We just want answers," said Xana Dove. "That's all we want. And everybody to be safe."

Johnson C. Smith University President, Clarence D. Armbrister, sent a letter to students Friday night concerning "plans to address the mold problem in some residence halls." App users click here to see the full statement.

During winter break, the university says it plans to inspect every dorm room for mold using a contractor and irradiate any mold in the room.

"No student will be required to live in a room that is unsafe."

Moving forward, university officials say they will be "proactively and aggressively identify and rectify the root cause" of the mold problem.