Heating Season Begins at Queens College

Not quite three years ago, I complained about the unbearable heat in a classroom at Queens College. Our union, PSC-CUNY, came across my blog post, which they interviewed me about. Although I can’t find the article with my interview, the incident has since become a rallying cry for our labor representatives.

Yesterday, the unbearable temperature returned to my large lecture hall at Kiely 264. At the beginning of class, I announced that the intense heat was due to it being October 1, and that university always turns on the heat in October, whether it is necessary or not. I didn’t have a thermometer to measure the heat, but it was enough for cause students to complain endlessly throughout the class. My guess is that it was well over 80° in the room.

Today, we received an email broadcast from the university. It looks like I was right: the cooling season ended in September. However, the heat was apparently turned on prematurely. Heating season is not scheduled to begin for another two weeks:

New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services guidelines mandate the end of the 2014 cooling season on September 30. Per the NYC guidelines, which our department and staff are committed to adhering to, we have ceased air conditioning functions across the campus and are in the process of taking most of our air conditioning equipment off-line in order to start preparations for the heating season which officially begins on October 15.

The communication also offers some “helpful tips” for maintaining “personal comfort.”

At this time of year there may be unseasonably cool or warm days, but as the systems are being transitioned from cooling to heating, we will not be able to provide all areas with temperatures that will be comfortable (depending on the status of the building’s system). We will help to provide thermal comfort as much as we can by bringing in the maximum amount of outside air, but we recommend dressing in light layers to assist in maintaining your personal comfort.

My students were not prepared for the intense heat and despite shedding sweatshirts and jackets (it was about 60° and rainy the entire day), they were still very uncomfortable. During our class break, I asked the media tech staff what I could do. They suggested that I call security and explain that I am a professor and that my classroom was unbearably hot. I did that, and it appears that they did power down the boiler, which helped some.

However, the students were still distracted by the heat and could not concentrate on our class material. Neither could I, despite being glutton for hot temperatures. I adjourned our class early in hopes we can reconvene when the temperature is more conducive to learning.

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