A/C issue no cause for “whining”

by Danny Woolums
Guest Columnist

I want to begin this by acknowledging that I live off campus and was not as affected by the air conditioning issue as those who do live on campus. That fact, however, does not take away from any of the points I would like to make. My concern is with how students handled the fact that they were hot last week, not that they were upset about the conditions on campus after spring break.

As someone that strongly believes we need to be mindful of the environment as we go about our daily lives, I was thrilled that the university created an energy policy to help us reduce our energy consumption. But here is the deal: The energy policy was not created to make the students miserable, and students should not react as though it were.

Clearly, the policy was not designed with record highs in mind. It was based on historical weather patterns that clearly did not apply to this spring. While it is legitimate to have concerns about the implications of the energy policy given the unseasonably warm weather, it is not cause for whining, sarcasm or dramatic calls home.

Updating your Facebook page and bitter tweets are not constructive ways to change things for the better. Students should take more initiative to learn the facts about the situation, politely bring up their concerns and ask questions about how those concerns can be addressed. I assure you that rude emails to the president or Dean Michael Vetter are not the best path to positive change.

So, here is the reality of the situation: This university has old buildings with old equipment. The heating and cooling systems that are in Clay, Davis and Forrer Residence Halls and Poole Residence Center, as well as in academic buildings, require being set up in a specific operational sequence to run either the “heat” or “cool” settings.

If too many students try to run their air conditioning unit in the “cool” mode while the system is set up for heating, it overheats the loop, forcing it to be shut down. Then, there’s not even airflow through the system. The amount of time and effort it normally takes to switch over these systems means that the university only switches the systems twice a year.

It is true that the energy policy does outline certain dates on which the boilers will be switched. These dates were picked because they represent the time it would normally be appropriate, based on typical weather patterns, to switch from heating to cooling. In other words, the temperature would normally stabilize at warmer temperatures around April 15 to May 1.

This is common practice for many universities and corporations in this region with systems similar to ours. The temperatures that we experienced last week were record highs, not averages, for the month of March. It is reasonable to ask the administration to reconsider the energy policy given the exceptionally high temperatures, but it is unreasonable and unproductive to do so in a way that is ill-informed and comes from a position of entitlement.

Less than two days after returning to campus, the administration got together to address this level of discomfort related to the temperature. The existing energy policy has been discussed to see where such exceptions could possibly be made for future situations like our current one.

This gathering was in response to concerns voiced by students, including your Student Government Association president, that were thoughtfully presented through the proper channels. The decision of the administration to listen to student concerns was made despite the negative feedback received, not because of it. You owe a big thank-you to those students who understand how to properly voice their concerns.

We complain about wanting to be treated like adults by an administration that we feel treats us like children. But then, when something minor does not go our way, we whine like children. After all, air conditioning is a luxury.

Our neighbors at Georgetown College have some residence hall units that have no air conditioning at all, and I assure you it is not because they are worried about the environment. They have the same problem that we do: old buildings.

Air conditioning is hardly a “necessity of life” and those who argue that it is are clearly showing a lack of understanding and showing their sense of privilege. Students like to complain without actually knowing what is going on.

Instead, we should engage in constructive dialogue when something bothers us. It will help us accomplish a lot more at Transylvania, and learning this lesson now will help us get a lot further once we leave campus. In moments like this we have the opportunity to really show how intelligent, patient and productive we can be. Don’t let yourselves down next time.

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