Phelps and Hausdoerffer temperatures soar as HVAC acts up

Residents of Phelps and Hausdoerffer Halls received an unwelcomed surprise upon returning to their apartments the evening of Thursday, Oct. 21 — the heat was set to an uncomfortably high level, and, for a night, there seemed to be no escape.

Many residents noticed the change in temperature upon returning from classes and meetings Thursday night.

“When I got back to my room that night, my door handle was hot as well as everything else in my room,” said Monica Debowska, senior biology major and Phelps resident. “The hallways were also like a sauna.”

Just how hot was it?

“I felt like I was in India,” said senior marketing major Natasha Srinivasan.

“It felt like the Sahara desert,” said junior nursing major Cate Moore.

Students estimate temperatures hovered at around 90 degrees. According to junior biology major Ravi Shah, one resident’s clock thermometer registered 109 degrees.

To cope, students opened windows, slept in their underwear or left the apartments entirely. Casualties included posters (melted), cosmetics (liquefied) and moods (soured).

“I was sweaty, bothered and my friends and I were a bit edgy,” Srinivasan said.

Students were urged not to tamper with the Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system in their apartments during the crisis.

“These systems are designed to stay on indefinitely. Damage to these systems will result in fines for residents and/or suites,” wrote Olaniyi Solebo, the Metzger apartments’ Assistant Residence Director (ARD), in an e-mail to Phelps and Hausdoerffer residents. “Also, please don’t attempt to cover your HVAC system with towels, tape, paper, etc. Covering the HVAC could pose a significant hazard to suitemates and the greater community.”

Some students were skeptical.

“My logic was, it’s too damn hot to do nothing, and if they didn’t want us to turn them off, they wouldn’t have switches,” said Sam Paternostro, junior communication studies major.

The temperature returned to normal during the afternoon on Friday, Oct. 22.

“It appears there was a malfunction in the system, but it has since been corrected,” Solebo wrote in an e-mail to residents at 4:05 p.m. “Over the next few hours, the temperature will continue to decrease and should return to a temperature much more comfortable for everyone.”

Students hung posters back up, removed makeup from the freezer and rediscovered “room temperature” — hopefully, a limit that won’t be tested again.

A few of the incident’s effects linger. Debowska credits the excessive heat with her current illness, and says she’s heard other apartment residents mention they’ve felt sick as well.

Representatives from the Department of Facilities Management declined to comment over the phone on this issue.

To report an issue with building services, students may fill out a work order, available at tcnj.edu/~facility, or call 609-771-2353 in the event of an emergency.

Emily Brill can be reached at brill3@tcnj.edu.