Student Life and ENGIE will soon develop plans regarding the installation of air conditioning, while box fans will provide a short-term solution for students living without air conditioning. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The reality for some Ohio State students in August is returning from class to a 90-degree dorm room.

According to the Office of Student Life, that might soon be coming to an end.

Dave Isaacs, a spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said that Ohio State is currently working with ENGIE, the university’s energy provider, to look into both short- and long-term solutions to address the lack of air conditioning in some residence halls on campus.

Although no definitive plan has been approved, Student Life and ENGIE are actively looking at the details regarding the logistics of installing air conditioning in residence halls that currently are without it, Isaacs said.

“It would have to come down to a variety of factors, including the facilities, the buildings themselves, what’s feasible, what isn’t and the overall cost of the project,” Isaacs said.

According to Ohio State’s housing website, residence halls without air conditioning include Baker Hall East and West, Bradley Hall, Canfield Hall, Fechko House, Mack Hall, Mendoza Hall and Paterson Hall.

A proposal to introduce air conditioning to these buildings has not yet been approved, but a resolution in Undergraduate Student Government was recently passed that will offer a short-term solution to the high temperatures experienced in the first weeks of school.

The approved resolution will provide box fans or similar products to students living in one of the aforementioned residence halls beginning on the first day of the fall 2019 semester.

Cade Santha, a second-year in information systems and USG senator, introduced the  legislation to General Assembly, but the idea originated with Elyse Schemenauer, a first-year in international business and member of the Student Affairs committee in USG.

“The reality is some students are having a really amazing experience in brand new buildings that have air conditioning, and some others are really struggling during the first few weeks of classes with no air conditioning, where sometimes in a room it can reach up to almost 90 to 100 degrees,” Santha said. “And that can really hinder performance.”

According to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study cited in the resolution, researchers found that students living in air-conditioned buildings performed better on various cognitive tests than their peers who were living in nonair-conditioned buildings.

Sarah Parker, a second-year in fashion and retail studies and former Mack Hall resident, said that living in a dorm without air conditioning was brutal, and she often found it difficult to concentrate.

“The lack of AC in the summer was unbearable at times, and my roommate and I would take turns putting our heads in the freezer,” Parker said. “Guantanamo Bay has AC.”

The problems due to a lack of air conditioning became a serious problem when Ohio State switched from quarters to semesters in 2012, Isaacs said. When the school was on a quarter system, the first day of classes started later in the fall, so students were not living on campus during the extreme August temperatures.

Isaacs also said that Ohio State has struggled with finding a solution to incorporate air conditioning into dorms due to limitations of previous energy partners and the inability of the university to shut down a residence hall for the installation process.

“ENGIE, as our energy partner, may be able to do some of that work in such a way that we would not have to take a building offline, but until ENGIE became our energy partner [in 2017], there really wasn’t a good option for air conditioning the buildings without taking them offline to do the sort of work that needs to be done,” Isaacs said.

Once Student Life and ENGIE develop more concrete plans regarding the installation of air conditioning, Isaacs said they will be able to submit the proposal to the Board of Trustees to determine whether funding will be allocated.

In the meantime, the box fans will provide a short-term solution to improving the living situation for thousands of students on campus until a more permanent plan can be established.