Tagged: CUNY

Twenty-Percent Rule

A few moments ago at a Starbucks in Sylmar, California, after grading a set of take-home exams and posting grades to CUNYFirst, I finished another teaching semester at Queens College. I now get about a week off before starting anew with an online, winter session course that I will be conducting from my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. This shortens my winter break a bit, but the online course allows me to extend my stay here in California until mid-January. New York is always so cold, sad, and boring in early January, and I am not the least bit bereft about missing out on whatever winter dreariness there is back east.

While I should be excited about finishing another semester and again submitting grades on time, allowing me a peaceful Christmas break, that enthusiasm is tempered because just over 20% of students in my Media Criticism course didn’t receive a passing grade. Nine out of forty-five students outright failed, and one student just stopped attending but still submitted a take-home final exam. In all but two cases, the students just stopped attending class.

Sadly, this is a common occurence at Queens College. I was shocked to see that, in the first class I taught there years ago, about a third of the class failed. Up to that point, I had only limited teaching experiences: as a TA at UCSB and NYU, and teaching one introductory film course at Marymount Manhattan College. In those situations, there was always one or two students who didn’t complete the course, usually because of an extraordinary circumstance, but having ten students fail a single course was a terrible surprise. In my second semester at Queens College, I alerted my students to this fact, imploring them to not repeat this same, terrible feat. For whatever reason, in that second semester, the failure rate was much lower, but since then it has crept back up.

I don’t have a single explanation for why so many Queens College students fail these courses compared to similar courses at other colleges. However, a few factors, however, come to mind:

  • Some students have challenging socioeconomic circumstances.
  • Some students have demanding family obligations, either raising their own children or tending for other needy relatives.
  • Some students work full-time and are taking courses in their scant spare time.
  • Some students’ commutes make it hard to attend class.1
  • Some students are returning to school after an absence and are having a difficult time readjusting to school and/or learning how to “do” college.
  • Some students come from NYC or other urban public schools, where they largely excelled because they stayed out of trouble, not necessarily because they were academically proficient.
  • Some students are stuck in “K-12 mode,” treat the classroom as a battleground between student and teacher, and are consumed by what they “get away with” in class, with assignments, and on exams.

These are some pretty significant obstacles to overcome, and it’s not unreasonable to see how students facing these would have trouble in a college class, especially where I really push the students beyond procedural learning into more conceptual terrain. In other words, my courses are hard because I expect a lot of students, and I haven’t yet come to terms with dumbing down courses for more favorable reviews or a higher passing rate.

For the new year, I am implementing a few new policies at Queens College to help make clear that attending class and participating in the day-to-day assignments, not just the written ones that count towards their final grade, is essential in succeeding in college and beyond.

One step is to implement two new attendance policies:

  1. Negative reinforcement: Students may not miss more than four weeks of class for any reason.
  2. Positive reinforcement: Students attending more than 12 weeks of class will receive a half-grade bonus to their final grade.

These two seem a lot more consequential than factoring their attendance as a percentage of their final grade.

I’m also instituting a second policy in my Media Criticism course: require students to present on assigned readings. This worked really well in the New Technologies class that I taught years ago but never got to do again. The class relied a lot on readings and developing conceptual frameworks for understanding media. It also spared them from having me lecture, pontificate, and yammer for a three-hour (!) class period.

I hope these policies keep students engaged and invested, not just for my Media Criticism courses, but for all their other courses at the college. We owe it to our students to push them into realizing their greatness, especially in the face of the formidable circumstances many of them face. Allowing them to pass, by doing subpar work or missing many class sessions, is a disservice to what they should expect from us and why they enrolled in the first place.


  1. My eight-mile commute from Brooklyn to Queens College is a lethargic agony. I can bike there in less than an hour, but it’s through some pretty bike-unfriendly terrain. Alternatively, I can take public transportation, which will take about an hour-and-forty minutes to travel those eight miles, via a mix of subway lines and busses. 

Office 365 for Students at CUNY Queens College, but Not Faculty or Staff

Earlier this week, I attended a group session about Microsoft’s Office 365, the productivity software and services subscription. Of the four colleges where I have taught, the suite has been offered at only one: CUNY Queens College. However, as far as I know, Office 365 is only available to currently enrolled students and, strangely, not available to faculty or staff.

In today’s session, the session coordinator and a number of participants, including many who also teach at CUNY, insisted that faculty and staff have access to Office 365. I was a little embarrassed to have been corrected in a semi-public setting like that.

After searching various help documents on the Queens College website, it appears that I was right and everyone else was wrong. Office 365 is not available to faculty or staff at CUNY Queens College, only currently enrolled students.

A response from the IT Help Desk at Queens College also confirms this as much:

The Office 365 is for attending students only. Faulty and staff do however have the Office suite on their campus computers. They can also download a copy of Office 2016 through the CUNYPortal e-mall for home use. https://cunyportal.cuny.edu/cuny_eMall/

This I knew. I have a local version of Office 2016 for Home and Business on my Mac, but I am most interested in the Office 365 cloud functions and its apps for mobile devices.

I suspect that the participants in today’s session can’t distinguish between Office 365 as a subscription service and Office 2016 as the downloadable software that comes with Office 365. However, because the participants seem very clear on what Adobe Creative Cloud is, I suspect that it’s partly Microsoft’s problem with explaining the Office 365 product and distinguishing it from the venerable desktop apps, like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

But I am still puzzled as to why faculty can’t get Office 365 like the students. My sense it that has to do with students use one email system while faculty/staff are another. Students use Office 365 accounts with qmail.cuny.edu addresses, while faculty and staff use Outlook and are “grandfathered” with the older qc.cuny.edu addresses. Authorizing the site license might only allow a single domain associated with each organization.

On the other hand, both groups have access to Google Apps for Education, even if QC students, faculty, or staff are unable to use Gmail.

Media Technologies, Summer 2016: A Four-Week, Online Course

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As the school year winds down, some students are looking to get a jump on earning some credits over the coming summer.

I will be teaching an online version of Media Technologies at CUNY Queens College this summer. For four weeks in July, between July 5 and July 28. Much like the winter session course I taught in January, this course will be asynchronous and entirely online.

Media Technologies surveys twelve communication technologies. Rather than schedule lectures at a specific time that students watch online, I am emphasizing asynchronous, self-directed study.

For each media technology, students will…

  1. audition a short introductory lecture that explains the topic and emphasizes impacts of that technology on the society that adopted it,
  2. read a chapter from Irving Fang’s textbook Alphabet to Internet and a condensed version of an article from the fifth edition of the anthology Communication in History,
  3. complete a quiz on the material.

After covering four topics, students will be required to take a midterm exam.

Rather than use Blackboard or some similarly bloated learning management system, the syllabus is available on the open web. Anyone is welcome to audit the course, but submitting assignments requires a Queens College login to access Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom.

The winter course was a success, and using prerecorded video lectures has worked well in the spring sections. All the students completed the class: that doesn’t happen in the face-to-face courses where absenteeism is a problem. For the spring semester, I used the prerecorded online lectures to “flip” the classroom, and students have been very receptive and complimentary about the recorded slideshow presentations. For these reasons, I’m largely reproducing what worked in the winter session and spring semester for the summer course.

Finally, if you’re taking this course, you can get cash back on your textbooks. Shop through Ebates and buy your books from QC’s Textbookx.com store to get cash back on your textbook purchases. Not a member of Ebates? Sign up and get a $10 cash bonus.

Visit the course syllabus

Tell the New York State Legislature to Fund CUNY

This week, the New York State Assembly will finish their proposed state budget for the following year. The budget process includes negotiations between the state legislature and the governor, but this year, the City University of New York is in precarious position after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested in his State of the State address in January that the city of New York should be responsible to fully fund CUNY. Last year, the state contributed $485 million to CUNY and placing that kind of financial burden on the City of New York is tantamount to defunding CUNY for that amount. It would be a catastrophe for public secondary education in the nation’s largest city.

If you’re a resident of New York State, ask the state legislature to reject Cuomo’s budget proposal and to contribute to CUNY and the livelihood of the state.

Related: Read Paul Krugman's account of how CUNY levels the economic playing field for students.

Update: Joseph R. Lentol (NY Assembly, District 50) supports an increase of funding for CUNY.

Spring Breaks, Compared

The middle of March is upon us, and all around the New York area, many college students and faculty are preparing for Spring Break. The break is always welcomed because it “breaks” up the extended slog of the spring term, which usually lasts for four full months.

This semester, I’m teaching at two colleges: at Pratt Institute and at CUNY Queens College. For my film history class at Pratt, I was able to schedule the midterm exam today, on March 11, just before spring break starts on March 14. However, I couldn’t do the same for the students in my media technologies class at Queens College. Their midterm exam will take place on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), but their spring break doesn’t take place until April 28. That is a very late spring break, taking place between the twelfth and thirteenth weeks of class.

Here’s a comparison of spring 2016 semesters at four area colleges where I have worked (Pratt, CUNY, and Fordham) or studied (NYU).

Week NYU Pratt CUNY Fordham
Jan 18 Week 1 Week 1
Jan 25 Week 1 Week 2 Week 2
Feb 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 1 Week 3
Feb 8 Week 3 Week 4 Week 2 Week 4
Feb 15 Week 4 Week 5 Week 3 Week 5
Feb 22 Week 5 Week 6 Week 4 Week 6
Feb 29 Week 6 Week 7 Week 5 Midterm Exam
Mar 7 Midterm Exam Midterm Exam Week 6 Week 8
Mar 14 Spring Break Spring Break Midterm Exam Week 9
Mar 21 Week 8 Week 9 Week 8 Spring Break
Mar 28 Week 9 Week 10 Week 9 Easter Break
Apr 4 Week 10 Week 11 Week 10 Week 10
Apr 11 Week 11 Week 12 Week 11 Week 11
Apr 18 Week 12 Week 13 Week 12 Week 12
Apr 25 Week 13 Week 14 Spring Break Week 13
May 2 Week 14 Studio Days Week 13 Week 14
May 9 Reading Day Final Exam Week 14 Final Exam
May 16 Final Exam ?
May 23 Final Exam

NYU and Pratt both schedule their spring breaks in the middle of March, just after Week 7 at NYU and Week 8 at Pratt. That’s ideal because you can schedule a Midterm Exam the week before and have it wrap up the first half of the course. Fordham schedules their spring break a week later but, because it’s a Jesuit university, it adds an additional Easter Break. For some reason, Fordham dictates that faculty schedule their Midterm Exams in late February. Whereas courses at NYU and at Pratt are divided into halves, the semester at Fordham is broken up into (unequal) thirds: before the midterm, between the midterm and breaks, and after the breaks.

The CUNY schedule, on the other hand, is a mess. As I’ve complained in the past, CUNY should stop scheduling spring break around the spring Easter/Passover holidays because it’s not conducive to learning. My students will endure twelve consecutive weeks of class before they get a break. Once the break is over and they will have emptied their minds of everything I taught them, they will have only two weeks to recover that knowledge before heading into the final exam. Moreover, the students in my class will also bear an additional burden: our final exam is scheduled for two weeks after our last class, despite Finals Week starting on the week of May 16.

My own undergraduate experience was quite different from that of these students. My university was on the quarter system, and spring break was the week between the winter and spring quarters. Once we finished our winter-quarter, final exams in late-March, we were off until classes started again in early April.

It was a true spring break.

Media Technologies, Winter 2016: A Three-Week, Online Course

Today marks two firsts in my teaching: teaching an entirely online course and teaching during the three-week winter session. It’s also novel because I never took a course under either of these conditions as a student.

To better serve its diverse population of non-traditional students, the department of Media Studies at CUNY Queens College has been looking to offer more non-traditional course offerings. Those include more online and hybrid courses and more courses during the three-week winter session. (The department is also offering more courses during the summer sessions.)

My offering during this non-traditional period, Media Technologies, surveys twelve communication technologies. Rather than schedule lectures at a specific time that students watch, I am emphasizing asynchronous, self-directed study.

For each media technology, students will…

  1. audition a short introductory lecture that explains the topic and emphasizes impacts of that technology on the society that adopted it,
  2. read a chapter from Irving Fang’s textbook Alphabet to Internet and a condensed version of an article from the fifth edition of the anthology Communication in History,
  3. take a quiz on the material.

After covering four topics, students will be required to take a weekly midterm exam.

Rather than using Blackboard or some similarly bloated learning management system, the syllabus is available on the open web. Anyone is welcome to audit the course, but submitting assignments requires a Queens College login to access Google Classroom. Office hours, scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, are conducted via a series of Google Hangouts.

Finally, based on feedback I received from students enrolled in other online classes, I am dispensing with any collaborative requirement. The students I surveyed expresses disappointment and frustration with instructors requiring students to post to blogs, to social networking sites, or an online forum. They indicated that not only was it the most annoying part of the class, but also the least impactful.

The course is currently full. Enrollment is capped at twenty students to allow for personal contact with students registered for the course. This is especially important because we’re not aiming to create a MOOC at the expense of nurturing our undergraduates.

Visit the course syllabus

Google Classroom Ate My Students’ Homework

Google Classroom labels this teacher a "hero" because it will take a superuser to restore these students' deleted work.

Google Classroom labels this teacher a “hero,” presumably because it will take a superuser to restore students’ deleted work.

Starting a year ago this month, Google offered its Apps for Education clients Google Classroom, a free-to-use, stripped-down learning management system. I became intrigued with the offering, especially after both Queens College and Fordham adopted it and began offering workshops to train faculty on how to use it. I adopted it in the middle of this current spring semester, and it did what I wanted…except when it deleted all of my Fordham students’ work.

LMS No More

After teaching university-level classes for more than a decade, I’ve had it with bloated Learning Management Systems. A couple of years ago, I swore off Blackboard and Moodle because, as an adjunct professor, it was too much work to manage three or four courses on multiple learning management platforms. It was much easier to launch a static, public-facing website that all my students could find with an easy-to-remember URL or a web search. They could get a particular week’s readings, for example, in as little as two clicks and usually without ever entering a password.

However, going with a static web site instead of an LMS meant I would lose two key features: a gradebook and a platform to collect assignments electronically.

Rolling-Your-Own Gradebook

The gradebooks on Moodle and Blackboard both suck. Even when I used an LMS, I resorted to recording and calculating my grades on a spreadsheet: first Excel, then Numbers, and now Google Sheets. The added benefit of using a spreadsheet program is that I can upload grades with a tab-delimited or comma-separated values (CSV) file. It not only cuts down on the tedium of inputting grades using slow-responding pull-down menus, it also cuts down on errors.1

Collecting Assignments

Collecting assignments, on the other hand, remained tricky and offered no perfect solution. Having students email me resulted in an alphabet soup of attachments—PDF, RTF, DOCX, ODT, you name it—that I would have to convert, organize, and maybe even print to grade. Google Drive seemed to offer a better solution: students could compose or upload their assignment and then share the document with me. But then I would end up with a ton of files in my own Drive that I would have to organize, too. I also would get annoying email notifications for each student alerting me that I have been invited to view, comment, or edit someone’s document. And, at Queens College, students would have to share their document with jmonroy@qc.cuny.edu but not my more official email address of juan.monroy@qc.cuny.edu. That’s because QC doesn’t use Google Mail, and Google Apps doesn’t know that jmonroy@qc.cuny.edu is the same user as juan.monroy@qc.cuny.edu.

The most basic solution appeared to be having students bring paper copies to class. But as Steve Jobs said about using a stylus for smartphones, nobody wants that: “You have to get them and put them away, and then you lose them.”

Yuck, indeed!

The same goes for hard copies. Students inevitably have printer issues, forget or neglect to staple their pages, or simply don’t bring their assignment to class and then ask, “can I bring it to your mailbox?” For an adjunct who comes to campus only once a week, that’s not practical. I’ve also had it with shuttling student papers from one place to another and organizing them into piles across the floor of my home office. There has to be a better way!

Google Does Homework

Because they each use Google Apps for Education, Google Classroom is available at Queens College and at Fordham University. The platform offers two compelling features. First, it allows you to post announcements to your students, and second, it allows you collect assignments—nicely organized into a Classroom folder in my Google Drive—and respond to each student’s work. I could care less for the announcements feature, but the assignments function seemed to address my quibbles over using Google Drive. Students submit their assignments and they go to a folder in my Google Drive. I can grade an assignment for each student, comment on their document, and “return” it with feedback.

When I went to grade an assignment, I noticed that a particular student, let’s call her Allison, had attached a file from her Drive. When I followed the link, labelled “Drive File,” I got a Not Found: 404 Error message.

I see that Allison attached a "Drive File."

I see that Allison attached a “Drive File.”

But following the "Drive File" link yields this 404-error page.

But following the “Drive File” link yields this 404-error page.

That was odd. I wrote Allison and explained that she must have done something wrong to improperly submit her assignment. I proceeded to grade the next student’s assignment. Brandon also had a “Drive File” link and following it took me to the same 404-error page. The same thing happened for Charlene, for Dmitri, for Evelyn, and for Federico.

Dammit! All the work was gone.

A few panicked web searches led me to a Google Classroom support forum. Having not found a topic relevant to my problem, I started a new one. A tech support forum moderator promptly responded and suggested a puzzling course of action: that we check our Trash. It was basically a case of Classroom moving our files to my Trash, and I should expect to find them there.

I reflexively like to keep my Trash empty because I’m old and remember when hard drive storage was a scarce resource. Keeping the trash empty ensured you had liberated some drive sectors for more important files.

Apparently, because the student’s work ended up mysteriously in my Trash, all the student files were now gone because I emptied the Trash on my Google Drive. Moreover, when I asked a few students to resubmit their assignments, they told me that they couldn’t find their documents. Not only did Classroom delete the files from my Drive, it also deleted it from their Drives too.

I reported that this “new information had come to light,” and the same support forum moderator suggested that we do some workaround to recover our work. Despite suspecting that this workaround didn’t apply to our situation, I had the students try it anyway: unsubmitting and resubmitting their assignments didn’t work. The files were still gone!

And That’s Why We Back Up Our Work

After realizing that the Google support staff could not help us, I called the support staff at Fordham. The Google Apps administrators there were able to restore the Classroom files from a backup and bring back my students’ work.

Compared to other learning management systems, Google Classroom is really limited, but it touts one worthwhile feature that I liked: collecting and grading student work. But after deleting my students’ assignments, it looks like I will have to revert to collecting papers in class. I simply can’t trust Google Classroom to do the one thing it was supposed to do.

It was also a wake up to my students: the cloud is not a backup.


  1. My colleagues at CUNY have warned me to submit my grades on time, otherwise I would have to fill out grade changes for each student on multiple slips of paper. I joked that I would rather do that, using a mail merge or something similar, than deal with those slow-responding pull-down menus on CUNY First. 

My Spring 2015 Classes at Queens College

The spring semester started yesterday at CUNY, and as luck would have it, it came just after a historic significant snowfall that receded in time for the first day of instruction. Also, as luck would have it, I teach two classes on Wednesday this semester at Queens College. This is a welcome relief from the past three semesters: I’ve either taught only one class or have had to make an hour-long, ten-mile slog on multiple days, at rush hour, and in peak-travel direction. It will be much more pleasant to have to only travel one day a week and at midday.

With the semester officially underway, I’m lifting my self-imposed embargo on publicizing the syllabi for my two Queens College classes.

Media Technologies

For the last five semesters, I’ve taught the evening section of this introductory course on the development of communications technologies. In it, we cover the technologies of writing and print, mass culture in the industrial age, electronic broadcast media, and, of course, digital media.

This semester, I changed the textbook from Crowley and Heyer’s Communication in History (retail price: $154.00) to Irving Fang’s Alphabet to Internet (retail price: $60). While the students should appreciate the economic relief, there is a significant trade-off in adopting the Fang textbook. Whereas the Crowley and Heyer book anthology is an collection of condensed writings on communication technologies, Fang writes a more traditional textbook. I usually prefer the former and to read a variety of different writings on a topic especially because it fascinates me how greatly scholarship can vary despite each author writing on the very same subject.

However, I sensed that most students weren’t reading the articles I assigned. With students enrolled in an evening section of an introductory course, almost all of whom are coming from day jobs and have pressing family responsibilities, it’s remarkable to me that they manage to attend class in the first place. Consequently, I have decided to lighten the weekly reading load by adopting a more condensed textbook, and I’ll use our class session to elaborate on each topic.

Media Criticism

To be honest, I always dreaded teaching this class. It used to be a 300-level class, and when I started teaching it, I upped the difficulty to meet my expectations for graduating students. I curated a collection of long, challenging readings; I assigned several writing assignments with a capstone; and I gave in-class exams with difficult essay questions. But after the first few weeks, I realized that I needed to do a lot of remedial work. Instead of having passionate in-class discussions about each reading, I had to teach students some fundamentals, such as how to outline an argument, how to compose a thesis statement, and the importance of opening each paragraph with a topic sentence. One semester, I even taught some research methods, such as searching catalogs and electronic journals, and I spent a whole week on citations and bibliographies. But I stopped doing that after one peer reviewer censured me for teaching so many nuts-and-bolts. After that critical evaluation, I became frustrated and gave up on figuring out how to teach this class. Thankfully, I was not asked to teach it again.

A few years have passed since I last taught the class, and both the class and I have changed in that time. Media Criticism has been reclassified as a 200-level class, presumably due to Pathways reform, and I am more experienced with teaching seminar-style courses, where I can let students talk. I’m now ready to retry teaching it as introductory media theory course: a course where we “criticize media criticism,” as I explained in class yesterday. This semester, instead of “curating” an overly ambitious collection of readings, I had the students buy one textbook, we’re comparing three or so readings each week based on themes that the anthology’s editor, Laurie Ouellette, presumably organized them and based on my own interests in media and cultural studies.

One of the reasons I chose Ouellette’s edited collection is because gender and race aren’t put into a “topical ghetto.” Instead, those are addressed in almost every reading throughout the book. When I explained to my students yesterday about the importance of “studying (or criticizing) media criticism,” I offered the following diatribe:

A few weeks ago, the Academy Awards nominated ten film actors and ten film actresses for best of the year. Not one of them is black, Latino, Asian, or any other American ethnic minority. Are you telling me that there’s not one such actor who was among the best last year, or was it that those in charge of making movies didn’t offer some one “different” an opportunity? Either way, as a country, we have failed when our most visible cultural form disregards our own people…those that make up this country.

It was a rare moment of seriousness for me, and I probably prattled on a bit longer than I should have. But I wanted to make a point about why it’s important for budding creative professionals to study theory. I attribute the representational failures of the commercial film and television industries, as evidenced by 2014’s films and the attendant nominations, to its anti-intellectualism. A little reading and critical thinking could do everyone some good.

Alternatives to CUNYFirst

Remember how CUNYFirst, the maligned all-in-one information management system at the City University of New York, tends to fail at the worst possible times, such as the beginning of the semester? For example, last August, CUNYFirst was down as the fall semester was starting and made it difficult for students to access their course schedules and for faculty to access course rosters.

Outages at peak usage times suggest deep-seeded technical problems. Although I don’t have any information on the specific causes of last fall’s outage, I suspect that the hardware powering CUNYFirst, either the database, the web server, or both, were simply overwhelmed by the activity from students, faculty, and administrative staff.

Today, I learned of two alternative access points to CUNYFirst data.

  1. CUNYFirst MyInfo. This access point, requiring CUNY Portal login, allows faculty to view our teaching schedules and student rosters. Instead of requiring a live connection to the CUNYFirst database, which could potentially crash the system, this appears to use a cached data: MyInfo pulls data from CUNYFirst once a day, presumably in the middle of the night. While it might not be live enrollment data, once a day is “good enough.”
  2. QC Courses. This is specific to Queens College and allows anyone to quickly access basic course information without having to login.1 Since the system is essentially public, it does not contain student rosters, but it does list the enrollment count, the catalog and section numbers, and the time and location for each course.

I welcome these solutions because it spares CUNY from having to “glue jets on a bus“, and it spares me from having to use CUNYFirst for looking up course information. With these alternative access points in place, most of us won’t have to bother with CUNYFirst during peak usage time at the beginning of the semester. And I personally won’t have to use CUNYFirst until I need to report attendance in the second or third week of the semester and until I need to report grades in late May. These alternative access points will make the launching this semester significantly less painful than the previous one.


  1. I should note that, after talking to a few colleagues at other CUNY sites, the information management and registration functions at Queens College appear to run smoother than at some other colleges in the system. 

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.