Pitt students petition for air conditioning

By Drew Singer

A large, yellow object has been spotted hovering in the sky above Pittsburgh… A large, yellow object has been spotted hovering in the sky above Pittsburgh recently.

Around the same time that this phenomenon — which hadn’t been seen for months prior — appeared overhead, the snow also melted away and it apparently became socially acceptable to go shirtless on the Soldiers & Sailors lawn again.

In all, Oakland seemed quite a pleasant place to be for spring’s arrival and the sun’s return, but beneath the veil of blooming flowers and free Rita’s Water Ice, something just wasn’t right at Pitt.

Towers residents watched in bewilderment last week as their friends in other residence halls enjoyed air conditioning. But for the 1,800 students in Towers A, B and C, heat was their only option.

“My room was 95 degrees last week,” Pitt student Rachel Cline said. “Then, when it went down to 30 degrees outside, it was still 80 degrees in my room.”

Although some residences do not have central air conditioning — for example, Pitt has ceiling fans installed in Holland Hall and nothing installed to help its on-campus fraternity houses — Towers does have the ability to switch its heating system to air conditioning.

Room temperatures were getting so high that residents were having trouble sleeping and studying, so Cline and her friends decided that it was time to get serious.

“It started as a joke, actually,” Cline said. “All of my friends were complaining, and I was like, ‘Fine, let’s make a petition.’”

Two days later, Cline had gathered 254 signatures from Towers C residents — about 60 percent of the building. One of those signatures was from Tower C resident director Simeon Saunders — who made a point of signing on the petition’s first page, despite there being no more space to do so.

“As the situation is impeding our ability to acquire the most from our paid education, should you fail to comply with our request, we will have no choice but to appeal to higher University officials,” the petition reads.

Cline gave the petition to Panther Central Thursday, and the air conditioning was turned on that same day.

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said that switching the building’s heat to air conditioning is more complicated than some students might think, and Pitt was worried about forecasts that temperatures would soon decline and heat would be needed again.

The system in Towers works by heating or cooling water. Switching from hot to cold — or vice versa — takes at least four hours, Fedele said.

“Constantly switching back from really hot to really cold isn’t good for the system,” he said. “I’d never say never, but now that we’ve switched, I’m hoping we can keep the air conditioning on for the rest of the term. This is Pittsburgh, but we’re hoping.”

The system works differently in the buildings where students could use their air conditioning earlier than last week, allowing for year-round control in each room.

Cline said that when she and her friends called Panther Central last week to ask when Pitt would turn the air conditioning on, they were given different answers each time.

“I understand why they didn’t turn it on, but I don’t think they actually went into the rooms,” she said. “We pay for that air conditioning.”