Heating issues have become so persistent at a CUNY community college that administrators have moved most classes online as outside temperatures fluctuate in the 30s and 40s.
A Bronx Community College spokesman said the heating issues were “intermittent” and all classes other than lab classes — such as nursing and clinical radiography — went online from Nov. 16 through the school’s Thanksgiving Day.
“We are currently working to fix the heating issues in time for students, faculty and staff to return after the Thanksgiving holiday,” BCC spokesman Richard Ginsberg said in an emailed statement.
In an email to students, the school said it would provide “further information on the return to face-to-face classes” before November 28, raising the possibility that repairs could continue beyond the holidays.
The campus initially had no heat for several weeks this fall, despite New York law requiring heat to be provided in residential and commercial buildings from October 1 through May 31.
Earlier this month, faculty and staff complained of their fingertips turning blue in unheated classrooms, and staff with conditions such as anemia and neuropathy reported severe discomfort.
Around the first week of November, the boilers were repaired and the heating finally turned on, but the repairs didn’t last, associate biology professor Yasmin Edwards said. By the second week of November, the system began to stutter and send out inconsistent temperatures, she said.
“We’re having this mishmash situation right now where some buildings are heated, some aren’t heated, some parts of the buildings are a little heated and other parts aren’t heated,” Edwards said.
She said some students at lab facilities where science experiments must be conducted in person are trying to keep warm in bulky winter clothing – making it difficult to complete their work.
“If your hands are cold or you have to wear gloves, as was the case in biology and chemistry labs, you can’t handle beakers and glassware properly and safely,” Edwards said. “That’s what some of our students were forced to do in those buildings.”
BCC employees are also allowed to work remotely. A Nov. 15 email from BCC President Thomas Isekenegbe to the school community about the move to distance learning said, “Staff should consult with their managers to prepare for remote work.”
The school has made loaner laptops available to students and says the campus pantry will remain open for holiday food distribution. The school’s day-care center with its own heat supply also remains open.
BCC, the oldest community college in the CUNY system, serves approximately 9,500 students. It has 34 buildings, half of which are at least 80 years old. Infrastructure problems have been an issue for years.
In January 2019, a burst pipe at the BCC’s Colston Hall flooded the building and destroyed the heating system.
In 2020, weary BCC faculty passed a “vote of no confidence” in the administration for “allowing gross physical deterioration across campus, including a lack of adequate lighting and inadequate indoor heating.”
Last year, BCC asked CUNY for $32 million in equity funding to replace “the aging boiler plant” by September 2024, warning that “without the upgrade, there is an increased risk of irreparable system failure with significant programmatic and operational costs.” impact exists”.
The union, which represents CUNY’s professional staff and faculty, said the heating problems were the result of years of severe underfunding, which has led to infrastructure problems throughout the system.
“The Bronx Community College can’t keep the heating going because CUNY is understaffed due to years of delayed maintenance and underfunding and is unable to keep our buildings in a safe and working condition,” James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress, said in a statement . “The coldness felt in class this week by BCC students, 93% of whom are Black and Latinx, was a chilling reminder of how little respect the political establishment has for our communities.”
Edwards, the BCC professor, said she understands the challenges that old buildings pose but would like better communication from school administrators when dealing with chronic heating problems.
“The challenge we have is just the lack of communication and the confusion,” she said, referring to the school’s problems with intermittent heat. “We all know that temperatures will drop in October, November. But every year we end up in the same situation.”