Air conditioning coming to May Hall this spring

[Allie Gath]

Framingham State University is installing air conditioning in May Hall, one of the academic buildings on campus. This project, which began in May, costs $728,000, according to Dale Hamel, executive vice president.

The commonwealth’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) provided $500,000 of the funding required for the project, said Hamel.

The University is waiting for the remaining money for the project to be funded by DCAMM or it will come out of the budget for college operations, which is funded through student fees, according to Hamel.

Sophomore Lizzy Stocks said the majority of her classes are held in May Hall, but “the heat is only so bad for about two weeks out of the first and last months of school. … I’d rather half a million dollars go to improving something like the Wi-Fi, updating the Ram Trams or going into the Warren Conference Center that FSU just bought.”

Hamel said the construction has been “a little complicated” because of the reduced
number of people working on the project and the challenge of scheduling construction so it does not conflict with academic classes.

The project has “slowed down a little,” but the construction in May Hall is scheduled to be finished by the end of October.   

Warren Fairbanks, associate vice president of facilities and capital planning, said the construction has been undertaken by KMD Mechanical Corporation of Worcester, Massachusetts.

According to Hamel, there have been issues with security in May Hall because the construction workers have to go into the offices to work on the A.C. Office doors have been left unlocked and unsecured, by both FSU staff members and members of the construction crew.

Hamel said, “It’s a concern for safety” that comes up as “an issue of working in an occupied building.”

According to Brad Medeiros, FSUPD chief, a docking station was reported missing on September 1 and has not been seen since June. An investigation was conducted by FSUPD, but the docking station was not found.

“There is no evidence to indicate that the docking station was stolen by anyone associated with the A.C. construction project or someone else who may have been in the building,” Medeiros added.

Richard Allen, a history professor who teaches classes in May Hall, supports the installation of air conditioning in May Hall.

He said the extreme heat over the past few years has impacted his teaching schedule and office hours, especially within the last year.

Allen said, “It is something that has needed to be done for many years. I raised this matter with Interim President Robert Martin several years ago. We had another bout of this really intense heat and humidity, and nothing was done.

“It was the sort of thing people complained about for years. It’s high time that this matter is finally being addressed. … It’s high time they spent [the $728,000]. They should’ve done this years ago,” he added.

Junior Jace Williams said, “It’s about time – people have been getting heat sick and having to miss class because of the heat in May. You’d think they would have done this sooner.”

According to Fairbanks, because of the “excessively hot September of 2015,” the plan to add air conditioning to May Hall bumped the previously scheduled renovations to Crocker Hall.

This construction included new ADA compliant bathrooms and a new fire alarm system. Crocker Hall “does not meet the current code standards” but because it was grandfathered in in 1980, the building can still be legally occupied, Fairbanks said.

Due to the “limited available funding,” the Crocker Hall renovations were “pushed off” in favor of the A.C. installment in May Hall, he added.

Sophomore Erica Linnell said, “I have classes frequently in that building, and I think air conditioning will create better focus for students as the building is often too hot and stuffy.”

The University wants to centralize the air conditioning system and plans to connect May Hall to the A.C. in Hemenway Hall. The construction for this will be completed by the spring semester, Hamel said.

The Hemenway Hall centralized A.C. system was installed “not only to cool the Hemenway Hall complex, but May Hall as well. So that tie-in needs to occur, but people won’t see that – it will be underground,” he said.

Brian Bishop, assistant art professor and chair of the art and music department, said, “Particularly in the summer, it is very difficult because we have classes over the summer all the time.”

He teaches an Encaustic painting class that involves heat guns and heated palettes and “when you teach a class like that in July – when it’s 100 degrees outside – you can imagine how hot it is in here.”

He said the art department isn’t like other academic programs that can be moved to other in air-conditioned buildings over the summer because many of the art classes work with paints and materials that need special ventilation – something that is only available in May Hall. “We’re stuck in the building.”

He added, “This is something that has been a long-standing issue. … This is a very welcome change for us.”

Most of the academic buildings on campus are fitted with air conditioning, and Dwight Hall is the next to be renovated. Dwight Hall is scheduled to be retrofitted with an air conditioning system in the summer of 2020.

Parts of Dwight Hall are fitted with smaller air conditioning units, but the building does not have a centralized system.

Many students are unhappy about the lack of A.C. in the residence halls. Sophomore Hailey Small said she understands the need for A.C. in the academic buildings, but added, “I think residence halls should take priority. … People are living there it’s kind of a necessity at this point.”

Junior Raysam Donkoh-Halm, said “In the case of the residence halls I know the majority are without air conditioning and during the first month back to school it’s the number one complaint about living on campus.”

Hamel said there are no “current plans to expand it due to the cost to the students” and the lack of usage the A.C. would get throughout the academic year.

Linsley Hall is the only residence hall currently outfitted with A.C. throughout the building because it is used during the summer months.

Hamel said in West Hall, the University air-conditioned “certain components” of the building and administrators “might continue to look at that – a few of the common spaces.”

Hamel added, “We’ll be glad when this project is over. This has been a disruptive one simply because trying to do work in an occupied building always causes issues.”

The construction is scheduled to be finished at the end of the month and the air conditioning will be ready to use for the spring 2017 semester.

Rachel Trousdale, an assistant professor of English, who teaches in May Hall, said, “It’s really great that we’re getting air conditioning, which will make life much easier during the beginning of the fall semester. But as a lot of people have noted, it’s been difficult. It’s hard to hold a paper conference with a student when you’ve also got a guy on a ladder three feet from your desk assembling a cooling unit!”