Camping out in the Student Center to avoid heat

It’s not too often students blame the weather for a majority of their complaints. Recent weather reports display temperatures in August and September were surprisingly higher than average. As global warming continues to become a prominent issue, we notice the effect our environment has on Marist campus and students.

Marist College, located in Poughkeepsie, New York is a highly selective private liberal arts school. Currently facing a period of rebirth as we embark on new construction projects, it seems as though even Marist can’t escape the weather complaints that come with living in upstate New York.

As I sat with Justin Butwell, Director of Physical Plant at Marist, who oversees all grounds maintenance and construction projects; he gave me an overview of how the buildings function during this time of year. We have hit the awkward period where one week is blazing heat and the other is filled with chillier nights. Taking a closer look at the campus, a majority of the buildings are equipped with air conditioning and heat making the summer and winter months more bearable. But it is those in-between weeks that get Marist students riled up. About 65% of student dorms are furnished with AC systems, while the rest are unfortunately missing this.

Further looking into the issue, I spoke to Sarah English, Director of Residential Life and Housing. “The weather is constantly affecting Marist campus. We have complaints from students who have heat and AC and then we get complaints from students who don’t have any AC at all. You can’t satisfy either.” The West Cedar housing runs on a Fan Coil System, meaning they are all connected and run by the same machine, functioning as a unit and not independently. As Justin explained, those dorms are either all going to be on heat mode or cool mode, but they cannot be on both. This leads to students with AC to complain, asking Sarah when the heat will be turned on to get through those “crisp” nights. Meanwhile students living in the Fultons and new dorm buildings by Gartland have heat pumps, which gives them a range to control their thermostat. Surprisingly Justin stated that, “giving people control of the temperature in the room saves [Marist] electricity and money. Sometimes we would overheat the rooms, and then you had students opening their windows –and that’s a waste of money.”

When the dorms were renovated in 2001, a lot of thought went into the idea of putting ACs into freshman dorms and Midrise. During these weeks temperatures begin to drop, nights get colder and the days are still hot. However, it was a big expense for something that would only be useful a short period of the year.

Since we can’t satisfy both, Sarah mentioned students can be more responsible when it comes to the environment. Shutting blinds to prevent sunlight, opening windows on hot days to let the breeze in, and hanging out in ventilated areas. Resident Director Tamar Janaket mentioned how several freshman students would hang out in the Student Center until late at night to cool off before bed –another great tip.

Going forward Marist plans to include cooling and heating systems in new buildings, yet students continue to have an opinion. Freshman student Francesca Guzzo stated, “There’s no more welcoming feeling than waking up in your new dorm room in the beautiful campus that is Marist College in a puddle of sweat.” But as Justin, Sarah, and Tamar put it, “It would be an enormous investment to put AC into the freshman buildings. Spending millions of dollars to renovate and excavate systems so students havecooling systems those first weeks is not worth it.”

As welcoming as a puddle of sweat may be, it’s only a few weeks before the winter months hit us and a shorter period before the freshmen are seniors and can live in those newly built dorms, equipped with AC, heat, and even a microwave oven for all your weather necessities.

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