Editorial Notebook

Keeping cool on campus

Help for sweltering students

Normally in this column I talk about some issue in sports, but this week I’m going to talk about the poor heating control in RPI campus buildings.

I’ve heard that some of the classrooms on campus don’t have enough heating. Take Jonsson-Rowland Science Center for example. Sometimes the classrooms can be so cold that it isn’t necessary to remove any of the layers you were wearing for the walk outside to class. In those instances, I can understand why people would want the heat to be turned up. We are paying $60,000 per year to come study here; we shouldn’t have to sit in class shivering while our professors teach differential equations.

However, more often the heat is turned up too much in classrooms. I have a class in the third floor of Sage this semester, and when I walk in there, I notice a tangible rise in temperature from even the hallway, which is at about the right temperature. Then, within 30 minutes, I’ve taken off both outer layers and am still sweating. It makes me wonder if I should wear shorts underneath my sweatpants like the basketball players do so I can be warm enough on the walk to class but take off the extra layer so I don’t overheat when I get there.

The temperature must be between 80 and 90 degrees on any given day in that room and all the other ones like it. It’s February. We shouldn’t be overheating in class. Maybe in August and late May, but not February. Windows shouldn’t need to be opened to cool the room down; however, that’s what routinely happens. I remember I kept my dormitory window in Cary Hall open throughout the winter months last year because the room was too hot otherwise.

So what do I suggest? Turn the temperature down to about 70 degrees. This way students and professors will be more comfortable in class and thus, more likely to perform well in their respective roles. On the reverse end, I won’t even go into the positive environmental impact of turning the heat down. Instead I’ll just speak from an economic standpoint, which I strongly dislike doing. By turning the heat down to a more comfortable temperature, the Institute will save money on heating costs. Those savings can then be used for other investments, such as research or maintenance costs. It’s a win-win. A no-brainer as they say.

As contrary to common sense as too much heat in the winter is, it doesn’t end there. During the summer months, the temperature in many buildings is too cold. Last summer I worked in the Materials Research Center and found that, on many days, I needed to put on a jacket to stay warm enough. Now I certainly won’t say turn off the air conditioning, but at least allow the warmth of the summer air to naturally keep the temperature above freezing in the labs. Again, this would also save money and decrease carbon emissions.

For now though, let’s focus on the heating. We’re all sweating here, so please, do everybody a favor and turn the heat down.