High temperatures and lack of air conditioning in residence halls have affected the health and comfort of some students and their emotional support animals, but housing department officials are firm in their decision to transition from heating to cooling when outdoor temperatures are consistently warm, the director of residential facilities said.
Housing staff turned off the heat April 15, but it will take a few days for cool air to run through the system, according to an email that housing officials sent to students April 9.
Most housing facilities on campus use systems that can accommodate either heating or cooling, but not both, according to the email. When the outside weather gets warmer, staff make the transition from heating to cooling.
Sophomore McKinley Hughes, a Gregson Hall resident, has been staying with a relative off campus because the heat has affected the health of her emotional support dog, a pekingese named Gizmo.
“Having Gizmo makes it harder because normally I’d just be hot, but he’s double-coated and flat-faced, so he’s having a really hard time breathing,” Hughes said. “He had an asthma attack one day before class, when my room was 82 (degrees).”
Freshman Andrew Stark, a Hotz Hall resident, was unable to get adequate sleep because his room reached 80 degrees one night, which affected his ability to attend class the next day, he said.
Sophomore Gary Austin, a Gregson Hall resident, also experienced prolonged discomfort as temperatures increased inside his room, he said.
Austin is on the track team and found it difficult to cool down after daily practices, he said.
“I didn’t have any health issues or anything like that, luckily, but if I would have trained or worked out, then maybe,” Austin said.
At one point, the temperature of Austin’s room was higher than the temperature outside, reaching 81 degrees, he said.
Housing officials have a goal of maintaining a comfort range of 68-72 degrees within residence halls, said Jeff Vinger, director of residential facilities for UA Housing.
If residents experience conditions outside that range, they are asked to submit a maintenance request or contact their coordinator for residence education, Vinger said.
Hughes contacted housing department officials by phone, email and Facebook to explain her issue, and they responded by telling her they switch from heating to air conditioning when the temperature outside is consistently warm, Hughes said. They explained that they want students to be comfortable but cannot risk the pipes freezing, she said.
From April 9-14, Fayetteville temperatures were an average of 70.1 degrees. April 10 was the hottest day, with a high of 85 degrees, according to AccuWeather forecast data.
Hughes developed a heat rash April 10 because of the extreme temperatures inside, she said.
“My (resident assistant) and multiple other people on the floor said I should just stop complaining and buy a fan,” Hughes said.
A heat rash develops when blocked pores trap sweat under the skin. It can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from small blisters to deep, fluid-filled lumps, according to the Mayo Clinic.