Students struggle with extreme weather

Jyotsna Naidu/The Miscellany News.

As students returned to campus in late August, the traditional first-week heat wave smothered Vassar. But as August melted into September, the high temperatures did not cease. 

The National Weather Service issued an official heat advisory for Dutchess County beginning last Friday, Sept. 8. With highs over the weekend reaching 98 degrees, the advisory included information regarding the Heat Index. The Heat Index factors air temperature with humidity to calculate how uncomfortable a person might feel with these two forces, producing a value in degrees Fahrenheit. The Town of Wappinger reported that the Heat Index peaked on Saturday, reaching a whopping 111 degrees. Heat waves continued through Sunday and finally broke by Monday.

Associate Dean of the College for Campus Activities Dennis Macheska sent an email to the Vassar community last Tuesday, Sept. 5, warning students of the ongoing heat wave and reiterating statements made by the National Weather Service. Macheska composed a short list of cooling locations on campus with air conditioning, including the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, Gordon Commons and the College Center. In addition, he provided tips to stay cool, such as cold showers, staying hydrated and avoiding high-intensity outdoor activities. However, outdoor fall sports continued practice and games, including mens and womens tennis, mens and womens soccer, mens and womens rugby, mens and womens cross country and field hockey.

Students across campus are finding it difficult to deal with the high temperatures. Most students do not have air conditioning in their dorms, as small air conditioning units are prohibited unless students receive housing accommodations from the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO). Many windows can be seen housing box fans to help bring in fresh air and a cool breeze. However, some students do not even have that. The suites of Main Building contain some dorm rooms that have no outside window access; instead, the windows face inside to a hallway. Nico Silverman-Lloyd ’25 lives in one such room on the third floor of Main. “The only way I can get some air circulation is to have my window open, which I don’t like to do because it faces a pretty busy hallway where anyone walking by could easily have a clear view of my bed,” he said. 

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, obtained a prohibited air conditioning unit two years ago and has relied on its continued use for comfort in this weather. “I use an air conditioner not sanctioned by the AEO because my room reached over 93 degrees and it was sweltering hot,” the student shared. “I couldn’t sleep or focus because of how hot it was. I felt like I was in an oven.” All across campus, students are echoing these sentiments, complaining of intense temperatures and high humidity in their on-campus housing.

While most Vassar residences do not have built-in cooling systems, several of the newly constructed Town Houses have central air conditioning. Maggie Rudbach ’24 is living in a TH with central AC. Rudbach said of her experience, “Having AC in my house has made my life so much better. I really think that Vassar should work on offering more spaces that are air conditioned.” She continued, “I was here over the summer a year ago and I never felt comfortable in my [Josselyn House] room because it would get so hot. It was pretty miserable, especially compared to my living situation now.”

As the heat intensified at the end of last week, students faced yet another weather-related obstacle. Beginning Thursday night, a series of thunderstorms struck campus. Freddie Von Siemens ’25 witnessed a tree on the residential quad split in two from the sheer force of the wind. “Honestly, the night the trees fell was some of the craziest weather I’ve ever experienced,” Von Siemens said. “The lightning was lighting up the whole sky and the tree fell within a matter of thirty minutes of the storm beginning.” Deeming it unsafe to remain outside her dorm, Lathrop House, Von Siemens took shelter in the air-conditioned library. 

The one bonus of a constant stream of storms there was a significant drop in temperature as the week began. As September draws on and fall arrives, students can expect cooler, more comfortable weather. 


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