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Students walk to class at Bentley Hall Sept. 19, 2023, in Athens, Ohio.

Rising temperatures in Bentley Hall

Bentley Hall, located at 4 President St., has been experiencing higher temperatures as a result of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, or HVAC, complications. 

Samantha Pelham, a university spokesperson, said one of the chillers that serves the academic building was out of service. 

Pelham said OU Facilities and Management were made aware that Bentley Hall’s HVAC system was facing complications late into the first week of September. She said temperature checks were conducted throughout the building and temperatures were in the mid-70s. 

Jasmine McGhee, a freshman studying sociology-criminology, said she has four classes in Bentley, two of which are in the basement where the temperatures are seemingly higher. 

“Especially when I have my (classes) in the basement … it just makes everything so much more miserable, and that's when I'm really falling asleep because I just can't stand the heat. I just want to get out of there,” McGhee said. 

Patty Stokes, an associate professor of instruction in women’s gender and sexuality studies, said the heat doesn’t just affect students in the building. 

“I was in Bentley Annex the night before classes started–that Sunday–and was running off syllabi and doing other work there,” Stokes said. “It was so hot, and issues were occurring with my computer, and I ended up making some mistakes on my syllabi because the working conditions were impossible.”

Stokes said those who followed air quality debates during the COVID-19 pandemic learned there is a real cognitive impact if the air is bad, and when it is hot in Bentley, it can cause students to learn poorly. 

“I’ve noticed that if the air is good in the room, people tend to look alert. If it’s not, they are visibly less tuned in,” she said. 

McGhee said she has noticed the rising temperatures affecting her peers as well. She said she often sees students fanning themselves when it gets hot in the room and has heard some classes are let out early when the conditions are bad. 

Stokes said if professors are feeling poorly or overheated, it is hard to stay completely focused on teaching. 

“I’m teaching upper-level theory, some of which is routine for me, but there are certain texts and certain ideas that I really need to be on my toes to explain it the best,” Stokes said. “If I’m hampered by the temperatures, I feel worse about my performance as an instructor, and my students are being cheated.”

Stokes said the problem with the temperature in Bentley is not a new issue for the building. She said one of her colleagues, who has been at OU since 1997, told her the issues in Bentley go back to the late ‘90s. 

She also said she remembers an experience of her own around the spring of 2009 when it was “absolutely blazing” in the building. She said it is difficult to get heating and cooling in some of the old buildings–like Bentley–at the university, which is part of the problem. 

McGhee said as a student, she has received no updates from the university about Bentley’s lack of air conditioning or a timeline of when the problem will be resolved. 

She said it seems the university puts funding in places that she believes don’t need funding. 

“They built the statue in the chemistry building, and they did all of the funding for that, but they can’t even fix the AC in one of the buildings,” McGhee said. “Students are not having class on the statue. They’re having class in this building, and they are not able to pay attention because it’s so hot.”

Pelham said contractors are currently working on repairs, and an update will be provided when the issue is fully resolved.


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