SDSU makes sudden change after teachers say building made them sick

SAN DIEGO – Professors and faculty were fired up at a meeting on the San Diego State University Campus Wednesday morning.

“Why are you pushing so hard to go back into a building that none of us think is very healthy?” said one teacher.

“We have been sick,” said Nathian Rodriguez, an assistant journalism professor on campus. “I’ve been to the doctor twice."

The meeting was supposed to be a briefing for SDSU’s plan to reopen the Professional Studies and Fine Arts building on campus. The school did construction to the building’s roof in January, but shortly thereafter, teachers started complaining about the smell and feeling sick.

“I did start getting headaches the first week,” said Rebecca Nee, an associate journalism professor. “Then, I started getting severe chest pain and wheezing at night, which was a new thing to me and scary. The odors? It was hard to miss. You walk in and it smelled like an oil refinery. It was the first week of the semester.”

The school said it received 22 reports of people experiencing some sort of symptom. They eventually closed it in mid-March to flush out the air and brought in an air quality expert for testing. His results won’t be finalized for at least another week, but initially, determined the air inside likely wasn’t dangerous.

Now, three weeks later, the building was set to reopen, but as teachers started sharing their stories at a Wednesday’s meeting, SDSU President Adele de la Torre came forward and spoke out.

“She said she wasn’t going to talk, but after hearing all of us, it really compelled her to go up and speak,” Rodriguez said.

“The President just brought it, and she said you’re not going back into that building,” Nee said. “For so many of us, it was reassuring that she heard us.”

The building will remain closed until further notice, and teachers say they will still hold classes, either in other buildings or locations.

San Diego County Air Pollution Control District officials told FOX 5 Tuesday they have issued a notice of violation for the work done on the roof of the building and will continue to investigate.

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