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Drafty Rooms Chill Some Students

Caitlin Talmadge ’03 has been spending more time this week getting dressed for bed rather than breakfast.

Talmadge, a native Texan, has been so cold in her Leverett Tower room that she has been sleeping with several layers, a cap, a heating blanket and a heating pad to stay warm.

“Some people say they’re seeing their breath in their rooms,” Talmadge observed.

And judging from the nearly dozen e-mails sent to the Leverett House list this week complaining about the cold, many students share Talmadge’s dismay that, despite lower temperatures, the heat remains off in some Houses.

Oct. 15 is the designated day to turn on the heat. This date, however, is flexible.

“The goal date is always around Columbus Day, but the turning on is largely temperature driven. Once we get to 55 degrees for any length of time, we turn on the heat,” said Zak M. Gingo, manager of administrative operations.

The Oct. 15 date is suggested to conserve energy. If the heat is activated too soon, the rooms will overheat during the day, causing students to open their windows and waste energy, according to Paul J. Hegarty, Leverett’s superintendent.

“October is a tricky month. There are beautiful days, but the nights are cold,” he said.

Because of complaints, the superintendents discussed the heat in their last meeting. The heat in Leverett House was turned on yesterday.

Superintendents independently control the heat in their House based on student feedback and the superintendent’s discretion.

This feedback can widely vary, even between roommates.

“People from Minnesota can think it’s beautiful, and people from Texas think it’s cold. It’s hard to please everyone,” Hegarty said.

And even if students agree on an ideal room temperature, every room in a dorm can have its own climate.

“We try to act somewhat in concert, but different buildings and sections of buildings have different temperatures. The newer buildings hold more heat, and the parts that face south retain solar heat,” Gingo said.

Windows are another factor that can affect dorm temperature. Talmadge observed that Leverett Tower windows are difficult to shut properly, letting in chilly drafts.

Leverett’s budget next year will include plans to fix the windows. “It’s our long term goal to plug the holes and fix the poor windows,” Hegarty noted.

Despite the complaints about the cold dorms, this week’s weather has been typical for early October in New England.

“It’s been cold [this week], but not record-setting by any stretch of the imagination,” said Michael C. Jackson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Forecast Service in Taunton.

While the temperature at Logan airport dropped to 51 degrees yesterday morning, it was still 19 degrees above the lowest temperature ever observed on the day.

Jackson suggested turning on the heat by mid-October, but said “it’s all subjective.”

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