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  • NCSU Graduate Workers Union

Statement on the Presence of PCBs in Poe Hall

Poe Hall at NC State
Poe Hall. Image credit: NC State

Sign this petition on safe solutions for Poe Hall. The petition was put together by NCSU's Campus Community Alliance for Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), and co-signed by NCSU Graduate Workers Union and the NCSU chapter of American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

The NC State Graduate Workers Union understands the university administration’s negligence of PCB chemicals in Poe Hall as a part of a larger pattern of negligence towards students, staff, and faculty. The presence of PCB chemicals in Poe Hall has contributed to unsafe working conditions for students, graduate workers, housekeepers, faculty and staff alike, with concerns that these chemicals may be linked to a cluster of over 100 cases of cancer in those who spent extensive time in the building.

The silence from the university on its own role in this dangerous environment speaks volumes about its level of care for its employees. Though this news is unsurprising, given the historic lack of concern that NCSU has demonstrated in maintaining safe infrastructure, including exposure to dangerous chemicals in Dabney Hall due to ventilation issues that was not addressed until faculty, staff, and students demanded action from the university. This most recent issue is just one of many infrastructural failings that the university has yet to address.

Graduate workers have spent extensive time in Poe Hall as research and teaching assistants as we train the next generation of North Carolina’s teachers. Many of our colleagues in the College of Education spent years as undergraduates learning in Poe Hall before returning as graduate workers. We know that we are not alone in this experience: maintenance and cleaning staff have also spent years in this contaminated building. Thus far, students, faculty, and staff have not experienced adequate outreach or transparency from university administration.

Because we know that solidarity in the face of unsafe working conditions is essential, and for this reason, we support our American Association of University Professors chapter’s pressure on our university administration in their letter to the Chancellor, as well as their concern regarding the presence of PCBs in other buildings on campus. After all, we know we all breathe the same air.

Furthermore, we feel that the vote of ‘No Confidence’ in Chancellor Woodson, Provost Warwick Arden, and College of Education Dean Paola Sztajn from faculty in the College of Education is rightfully received following their mishandling of faculty’s concerns and failure to release test results in a timely manner. Furthermore, we condemn the decision to halt the CDC’s evaluation, and regardless of whether NC State attributes this decision to NIOSH or not, we recognize that NC State holds the ultimate responsibility in advocating for this investigation and allowing it to continue.

Through their decisions, the university administration, particularly the board of trustees, has shown their commitment to maintaining the institution’s prestigious image and the profit based interests of private industry rather than protecting the people who learn and work at NC State. The board of trustees and upper administration compose the governing body of the university, yet they are not elected by the university, but appointed by a series of third parties whose concerns do not reflect those of our campus community. Knowing this, we call on university administration and leadership to take actionable steps to rectify the harm that has come to those exposed to PCBs in Poe Hall and ensure safe working conditions for all NC State faculty, students, and staff.

For these reasons and more, we demand that:

  1. NC State work with a neutral third party to identify and contact everyone who has had extensive exposure to PCB chemicals in Poe Hall, regardless of their current employment at the university;

  2. NC State conduct testing for PCBs and other health hazards in all other campus buildings;

  3. NC State communicates all findings about hazardous chemicals in all campus buildings to students, workers, and alumni;

  4. That NC State covers in full the medical expenses of any former students, faculty, or staff whose health was negatively impacted by their exposure to these chemicals.

We stand in solidarity with all faculty, staff, and graduate workers who have been impacted by this issue. If you are in need of support, we extend an open invitation for you to reach out to us at to get connected.

This statement was first published by NCSU Graduate Workers Union.


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