UMass community ‘melting’ during a sweaty syllabus week

Relief from a two-week heat wave could be around the corner


Justin Risley

(Justin Risley/ Amherst Wire)

AMHERST – The first week of school has been a sweaty one for students at the University of Massachusetts, but relief is finally on the way.

A two-week heat wave wreaked havoc across Massachusetts, closed schools across the state, and caused discomfort for many UMass students.

The National Weather Service issued two alerts in the last two weeks. The first, an excessive heat warning in parts of the Pioneer Valley, lasted from Tuesday, Aug. 28 into the following day. A heat advisory was then issued on Thursday, Sept. 8 for towns throughout the state, including Amherst.

“I feel like I’m melting,” Daniela Grad-Freilich, a sophomore kinesiology major, said.

One of her least favorite parts about the 90-degree weather has been walking uphill to the Central Residential Area. When she finally makes it to her dorm building, there’s no cool relief waiting for her. Chadbourne Hall doesn’t have air conditioning.

This is true for a majority of the undergraduate dorms on campus — the North Apartments and the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community are exceptions.

Junior Carys Lamberg, a political science and BDIC double major, works and lives in CHCRC. While she enjoys the AC, she still takes precautions to stay cool while outside — walking in the shade whenever possible and staying hydrated.

Sophomore social thought and political economy major Isa Leonard-Rose sheltered indoors to survive the heat. Without AC or fans, though, staying inside doesn’t make much of a difference.

This kind of heat can affect a student’s ability to learn, according to a study published last May by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The researchers concluded that heat exposure inhibits cognitive skill development. “Without air conditioning, each 1°F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent,” the report reads.

While the study was conducted on high school students, college students and professors are also finding it difficult to work in such hot conditions. On Wednesday, Lamberg said her professor in Machmer Hall let the class out early due to the excessive heat.

“It was just so hot in there and none of us wanted to do an icebreaker or do anything,” Lamberg said.

Senior journalism and communication major Carly LaCross hasn’t had to deal with the heat much. Her place off-campus has AC and most of her classes are in the air-conditioned Integrated Learning Center. However, the heat makes her trek to class difficult.

LaCross still remembers how bad the heat was during her first week of freshman year.

“I remember it being miserable,” she said, who lived in  Melville Hall in the Southwest Residential Area.

Others have been soaking up the last of summer before fall rolls in. Sorority Iota Gamma Upsilon set up a slip and slide at their house on North Pleasant Street to help sisters cool off after the first day of class Tuesday.

“The slip and slide [was] really fun because it’s a summer activity we can all do together that includes water. And it’s better than taking a cold shower,” said Rebecca Goodman, a senior communication disorders major and sister at the sorority.

Luckily, according to local weather forecasts, the weather will begin to cool down this weekend, with highs of around 69 degrees. Temperatures are expected to rise back to the low 80’s on Tuesday and stay there for the rest of next week.

Email Brian at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @brianshowket.

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