Excessive heat, lack of air conditioning forces professors to cancel classes

Cat Murphy, Associate News Editor

Professors cancel classes all the time, and for all kinds of reasons. But usually, beating the April heat is not one of them.

That is nevertheless what happened on Thursday, April 13, and Friday, April 14, when temperatures inside some of Quinnipiac University’s academic buildings soared to nearly 90 degrees.

However, the heat forced several professors teaching in unairconditioned buildings to cancel their classes, move their classes online or speed through their material to avoid the intolerable classroom temperatures.

Lisa Burns, a professor of media studies who moved her classes to Zoom, took to Twitter Thursday evening to voice her frustration with the insufferable heat in the Center for Communications, Computing and Engineering.

“I decided to teach via Zoom because the classrooms were even worse,” wrote Burns, who shared a picture of her office thermometer’s 87-degree temperature reading in the April 13 Tweet. “Turn off the heat, @QuinnipiacU!”

Burns also told the Chronicle that intolerable classroom temperatures have been an almost annual concern.

“This happens almost EVERY spring,” Burns wrote in an email to the Chronicle on April 17. “I was ready to pivot to online because I’ve been through this before.”

Victoria Reid, an assistant teaching professor of advertising and integrated communications, held her first class in person on April 14 but transitioned her remaining classes to remote learning upon experiencing the high temperatures in CCE.

“It was unbearably hot in the classroom,” Reid wrote. “In the four years since I joined QU as communications faculty, I don’t remember anything like this happening.”

Lisa Burns, professor of media studies, posted to Twitter April 14 to express her frustration with the 87-degree heat in Quinnipiac University’s Center for Communications, Computing and Engineering. (Photo contributed by Lisa Burns)

For many students and faculty members, the heatwave that prompted professors to cancel classes seemed to come out of nowhere. Prior to April 12, temperatures in Hamden had not touched 80 degrees since Nov. 7, 2022, according to AccuWeather.

The random burst of mid-April heat vanished just as quickly as it appeared, though, with temperatures on April 15 and April 16 barely reaching 70 degrees.

John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, told the Chronicle that university officials cannot easily adjust building temperatures to accommodate unexpected weather.

“Facilities is aware of the situation, which is happening because of the exceptionally warm weather we’re currently experiencing,” Morgan wrote in an email statement to the Chronicle on April 14. “Unfortunately, this hot spell is occurring before campus building temperatures are scheduled to be adjusted to provide cooler air during the summer months.”

Even professors who chose to hold in-person classes last week told the Chronicle that the combination of heat and humidity disrupted their teaching.

“A lot of faculty decided to move their classes to other buildings, even,” said Paul Cappuzzo, a senior political science and economics double major who works as a peer catalyst. “A bunch of kids did not show up to class, presumably because of the heat.”

Marta Clepper, assistant teaching professor of physical sciences, said she had to modify her teaching plans after the projector in her Tator Hall classroom overheated.

“The temperature on the 3rd floor of Tator (Hall) was almost unbearable and did impact both my teaching and the students learning during the classes,” wrote in an email to the Chronicle on April 18.

Paul Fabbri, a junior public relations major, described the classroom climate to the Chronicle as a “sticky situation — literally and figuratively.”

“It just felt like all the humidity was trapped into one room,” said Fabbri, who had two professors end class early and another move class online on April 14. “Somehow it was even more humid in the classrooms than it was outside.”

Several professors also expressed safety concerns about the lack of available air conditioning in 80-degree heat. 

“The extreme heat in the buildings is unsafe for everyone,” Burns wrote in a separate email to the Chronicle on April 18. “I hope Facilities can figure out a better way to address these situations.”

Ronnie Dinnel, a junior 3+1 film, television and media arts major, agreed that the lack of air conditioning posed a safety hazard for students, faculty and staff.

“It makes me think … that the school prioritizes money (over) actually keeping students happy and safe,” Dinnel wrote in a statement to the Chronicle. “I’m shocked there were no cases of people getting heat stroke.”

However, for some students, the mid-April heatwave had a silver lining.

“I got out of class early, so I have no complaints,” Fabbri said.