Despite New Haven’s record-setting temperatures over the past two weeks, officials in Yale’s two newest residential colleges decided not to turn on the cooling systems in student dorms.
As temperatures soared above 90 degrees, students across campus have spent nights in residential college libraries and dining halls. None of Yale’s residential colleges or dormitories on Old Campus have air-conditioned suites — but the recently opened Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges do have cooling systems installed.
“We don’t actually have ‘air conditioning’ as such. It’s possible to push chilled water through the heating system, which is a different approach,” Head of Benjamin Franklin College Charles Bailyn said in an email. “[But] it was decided early on … that the cooling system in Franklin and Murray would not be turned on in student rooms, in fairness to students in other colleges.”
The subject of air cooling in the new colleges has been a topic of discussion since 2016. Former Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway told the News in October 2016 that the air-cooling system would be turned on in the summer, but not during the school year.
Bailyn acknowledged students’ frustration at the lack of cooling technology in their rooms, but noted that public spaces with air conditioning such as dining halls, common rooms and seminar rooms have been open to students throughout the heat wave.
Philena Sun ’22, who is in Pauli Murray College, said she used these common spaces during the heat but questioned why the cooling systems in the rooms were installed in the first place.
“It almost feels like the effort in installing the cooling units was a waste because we’re not using them,” Sun said.
A student in Grace Hopper College, Nanki Chugh ’22, said that the lack of cooling poses a health risk to students, citing heat-related illnesses and dehydration.
She added that Yale’s decision to keep the cooling system off in Murray and Franklin doesn’t make sense to her.
“If Yale has built the resources and the technology for a particular group of students, primarily because it’s a newer building, [students] should be allowed to take advantage of it and turn it on,” Chugh said. “At least a smaller population of the Yale community will be able to have cooling.”
The heat has not only made students uncomfortable in their rooms. It has also disrupted parts of the first-year Camp Yale experience.
The first-year keynote address — originally scheduled for Aug. 28 — was postponed because of excessive heat. It’s set to be rescheduled for some time in the coming weeks.
“It was disappointing to miss the keynote due to the heat,” Sun said. “It shows the need to renovate our facilities so we can focus on the event that is actually taking place at a Yale venue.”
Bailyn said administrators are doing everything they can to improve student comfort, and said that he is optimistic that the issue will be resolved soon.
“Fortunately, in my capacity as an astronomer, I can assure everyone that winter is coming!” said Bailyn, a professor in the astronomy department. “There are very few problems that can be solved completely by simply waiting a month or two, but this is one of them.”
Temperatures in New Haven dropped substantially this weekend into the 60s and 70s, providing a temporary respite for students.
Siddarth Shankar | firstname.lastname@example.org