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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

EDITORIAL The Case Against Air Conditioning and Going the Middle Ground in the Choice for Early Mornings

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The Case Against Air Conditioning

As the new Library and Technology Center (LATC) rises further from the ground, discussion in Old Chapel and in some of Middlebury's academic departments has turned, once again, to installing air conditioning in the majority of buildings on the south end of campus.

The current conversation stems in part from last summer's sweltering temperatures, which reached into the high 90s in some weeks in July and August. These high temperatures, some argue, adversely affect Summer Language School students, who must contend with no air conditioning in their residence halls or classrooms. Fall and spring temperatures, as an article in the Nov. 20 edition of The Campus showed, are also on the rise, which would make air conditioning for regular academic year students an appealing option.

But the case against air conditioning, however, is a strong one. The first argument hinges on cost: air conditioning, particularly on the scope some imagine, will prove an expensive addition to an already-strained College budget. Though air conditioning the LATC is a legitimate prospect -- climate control will help preserve the new library's many new and rare volumes -- spreading cooler temperatures into different buildings on that side of campus will throw a spike into the College's energy equation.

The second argument centers around the College's commitment to so-called "green" building principles. At an institution so celebrated for its ingenuity in environmental design and excellence in the realm of environmental studies, the thought of air conditioning alone is a regressive one, and one that will tarnish a proud Middlebury tradition. The College should apply its lessons from current and past building projects -- particularly the Atwater Commons project, which features a natural ventilation system instead of cooling machines -- and apply them to relieving those most affected by summer's warmer temperatures.

Going the Middle Ground in the Choice for Early Mornings

For some, the thought of waking before 8 a.m. to attend -- and teach -- a class is a daunting prospect. Some professors have used their disdain of rising early to reschedule classes for later in the day; others, faced with dwindling attendance over the course of a semester, have opted for class times more suited to the late-night tendencies of many Middlebury College students.

There is little doubt that currently there are too few classes scheduled for 8 a.m., a fact that greatly affects student and faculty participation at key lectures or late-afternoon events. But the upper administration and the College's Faculty Council would be wise to not schedule too many courses in this time slot, at the risk of diminishing student attendance even further and adding to the chagrin of faculty who must face drowsy students every day in the classroom.

Rather, the addition of evening classes and a cap on the number of classes offered at "prime-time" hours in the mid- or late morning are two alternatives that seem eminently more suitable to the varied, and tiring, schedules of both faculty and students.