Barnard Students Express Frustration Following September’s Heat Wave

Cate Cordell, a Barnard freshman, woke up on the floor of her dorm room in Brooks Hall, her roommate’s concerned face looking over her with no memory of what had just occurred. 

“I had no idea what happened so I tried to get up and find my bearings but I passed out again,” says Cordell (she/they/he), BC ‘27. “I tried to get up again and I passed out a third time and at that point, my roommate had called Barnard Health Services.”

The NYC Department of Emergency Management released a heat advisory for Tuesday, September 5th until Friday, September 8th due to daily temperatures above 90 degrees. On Tuesday, September 5th, in response to the heat, Barnard Dean Leslie Grinage, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Experience, and Dr. Marina Catallozzi, Vice President for Health & Wellness and Chief Health Officer, sent out an advisory email to the Barnard community, encouraging students to drink fluids, purchase box fans, and avoid being outside for extended periods of time. They also provided water, juices, and hydrating snacks in spaces in the Diana Center Event Oval and Sulzberger Hall and gave out popsicles in front of the Diana Center. Despite the efforts provided by the College, many students were still unhappy with the solutions provided. 

“I know that there were cooling lounges in Sulz,” says Cordell. “But also I shouldn’t have to leave my building and disrupt my day to go to a place that has AC so that I’m not in a dangerously hot environment.”

In 2018, Barnard experienced a similar heat wave during the first week of September which urged students to push for more protection from the heat. Currently, five out of Barnard’s 13 residence halls do not have air-conditioning, including freshman residence halls Brooks, Reid, and Hewitt. A later email on Thursday, September 7th sent by Dean Grinage and Dr. Catallozzi stated that Barnard increased the air conditioning in residence halls from 30% to more than 60% in the past five years. 

“Some of Barnard’s most recent air conditioning updates have occurred in the residence hall located at 600 W 116th Street,” wrote a Barnard College spokesperson in an email to the Barnard Bulletin. “Plans for further updates across campus are still being reviewed since retrofitting structures built over a century ago presents numerous challenges.”

To avoid the heat, many students changed their daily routines and sleep schedules with students deciding to sleep in their friend’s dorm rooms in Sulzberger, the air-conditioned first-year dormitory, or find refuge elsewhere. Delaney Huefmer (she/her) BC’27 decided to not sleep in her dorm room, after not being able to sleep and feeling as if she was going to vomit. 

“I had to go to my friend’s apartment because thankfully she was here but I don’t think I could have survived another night without air conditioning just because of how bad I felt,” says Huefner. “I also think that it’s very unfair that Sulz gets air conditioning in their room.” 

Huefner expressed her discontent with having to pay the same housing bill as students in Sulzberger. In response to the statements of dissatisfaction, Barnard has reasserted its intentions to update the campus. 

“Barnard supports students through inclement weather, and will continue to make updates to older buildings on campus,” writes the Barnard College spokesperson. “The exact features of residence halls will never be identical, however, it is our goal that all students are comfortable with their living arrangements.”

Students like Yuliya Tarnovetska (she/her), a first-year living in Brooks, expressed that Barnard’s actions in the heat wave changed her perception of the College. 

“It was really upsetting because I thought that they would take care of their students and want them to be healthy,” said Tarnovetska. “Especially in the first few weeks, school is really stressful, and on top of that, you can’t get a good night’s sleep and then you’re worried if you can stay in your dorm. It just adds up, so I was a little disappointed.”

As Barnard continues in dealing with similar situations in the future, many students, including Tarnovetska, hope that the College takes action in supporting its students.

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