Lawrence Hall residents try to keep cool

Students find creative solutions to beat September heat

Written By Lauren Clouser, Co-Features Editor

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On Thursday night, freshman Meghan Fitzsimmons tried to sleep on one of the couches on the second floor lounge of Lawrence Hall. She wasn’t alone.

“All the couches were full,” Fitzsimmons said.

The lounge, which is usually filled with people studying or passing through, had become a makeshift sleeping area for students trying to escape the heat of their dorms.

Natalie Wright, a freshman psychology major, said she saw students spread throughout Lawrence as she went to print out a paper for class.

“There’s people in the little ballroom; they have blankets laid out, they have snacks, they camp down here,” Wright said. “And then there’s some people that camp down in the lobby.”

That night, Fitzsimmons said she gave up trying to rest in the lounge around 1:00 A.M. and went back to attempt to sleep in her room again.

“I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in front of the whole school,” Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons is one of approximately 450 Lawrence Hall residents trying to keep cool as temperatures rose last week. Lawrence Hall is the only dormitory on campus without air conditioning, which has led some to seek out cooler, unconventional spots to sleep. It has also forced students to come up with creative ways to stay cool.

To try and sleep in her room, Fitzsimmons said she and her roommate place cold washcloths on themselves.

“We both put cold washcloths on our forehead, and then we have frozen water bottles and we put those on our stomachs when we sleep,” Fitzsimmons said. “And it actually helps, it cools you down.”

Marcus Mraz, a freshman broadcast reporting major said when he originally selected to live in Lawrence Hall, he hadn’t expected it to be so hot.

“When I got here it was like a whole other experience,” Mraz said. “I went to the nurse like the third day and was like: ‘I can’t do this.’ I couldn’t sleep at all.”

Wright said the small dorms only add to the heat.

“It’s like you’re at the beach but you just can’t leave the beach… It’s very, very tight quarters as well so it doesn’t help at all, it’s really hot. The air is really thick,” Wright said.

To battle the warmth, many residents bring their own fans. Fitzsimmons said they aren’t very helpful though.

“I have four fans total in my room, there’s one blowing on my face, one blowing on my roommate and then just two circling the room,” Fitzsimmons said. “And they’re all blowing hot air.”

Caroline Ritzert, a freshman forensic science major, had a similar problem.

“Personally with my room, the fans just blow the hot air,” Ritzert said. “So it’s still air hitting you but it’s slightly colder, not that much colder air. If you sit in one spot for too long you just melt in one spot.”

Wright said one day the heat made it too difficult for her to focus.

“I literally had to leave the room, I was like: ‘I’m so hot, I can’t read, I can’t focus, I can’t do anything,’” Wright said.

Parents have been calling the Office of Student Life to see if there is anything that can be done. According to Michael Gieseke, Dean of Student Life, these calls are not uncommon around this time of the year.

“Every year we get a few complaints about the weather and what can be done and all of that,” Gieseke said. “So it’s not unexpected that we would continue to get the phone calls that we got this year.”

Sophie Aknin, an office assistant in the Office of Student Life, said she received one or two phone calls on the matter, though she knew there had been more.

“The main call that I got was just asking us if the students were allowed to bring in air conditioning units, how they go about doing that, were asking whether or not we provide anything,” Aknin said.

Lawrence Hall students are not permitted to bring in their own air conditioning units unless they have a medical reason. Students need to have a doctor’s note and have it processed through disability services. Gieseke said first year students who need air conditioning for medical reasons are typically placed in Thayer Hall if possible.

According to Gieseke, the building would not be able to accommodate an air conditioning unit in every room.

“We do not have the electrical capacity for every single room to have an air conditioner,” Gieseke said. “And the amount of money, I don’t have the exact cost by any means, but it would be a significant amount of money to upgrade the system to change all the electrical, every room, to allow for enough power for that to happen. That is the only reason we don’t allow it.”

Gieseke said one of the actions they could take to aid with the heat was to allow the windows to open a bit wider, which they had not done in the past.

“We have a policy to keep the windows to a certain height so that nothing can be thrown out of them or dropped out of them, and this year we have taken that away and allowed the windows to be raised,” Gieseke said. “But in all fairness, there’s really not much more that we can do.”

Gieseke said that the weather in Pittsburgh changes fairly quickly, and  the university would have to consider other options for residents if the temperatures were higher, or if the heat lasted for a longer period of time.

“If there were a time where this weather sustained through all of September and went into October, then obviously I think the university would have to reconsider those kind of things, but at least as of now I don’t anticipate the weather sustaining itself at that level of heat for that long,” Gieseke said. 

As for now, there’s not much more that Lawrence Hall residents can do but hope that cooler fall weather comes soon.

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