Blowing Off Steam

If you can’t take the heat, get out of the library.

January’s freakishly warm spell has, it seems, worked its way into Harvard’s buildings this reading period. Looking around Lamont last night I was struck by the thought that Harvard students are hot—too hot. Crammed at our desks like slaves, elbow to elbow, fingers tapping in synchrony, the sheer volume of body heat rising off our backs filled the atmosphere. As we wade stoically through finals this week, everyone is beginning to feel the heat.

Unfortunately, Lamont is ill-equipped to take the pressure. Even on a good day it fills up like a zeppelin, the moist air circulating hopelessly from floor to floor. Ventilation is nearly as hard to come by as an empty seat. The windows are sealed shut and the dead fumes of unfinished papers waft by undisturbed, inducing headaches.

I’m no engineer, but it seems to me there must be some way to solve this problem. Being able to open the windows would be a start, or recognizing that Harvard students blow off quite enough hot air on our own without such extensive help from central heating. Instead, those that don’t abandon the hot slog are left to swelter in a study-sauna of their own making.

The stifling air has some obvious adverse effects. Passing through the reading room near dawn is almost surreal. Slumped figures drool unattractively onto their course-packs, cursing their professors in slurred whispers. Having arrived optimistically the night before with a full head of steam, students find themselves trapped in a mist of boredom. They stand no chance in the stuffy atmosphere. Further soothed by a lullaby of turning pages and tapping keys, is it any wonder that Lamont’s midnight tenants yield to sleep?

Could this, rather than Harvard’s natural exhibitionism, be the real reason behind Primal Scream? Come sub-zero temperatures, it is only natural that students should burst enthusiastically from their overheated study zone to engage in this animalistic ritual. Their hopes of cooling off in the Yard’s frigid environment might have been disappointed by this year’s mild weather, but it must have been a welcome relief after long, frustrated hours spent sublimating in the reading room.

This time of year, the administration is used to sustaining complaints about unnecessary stress and the university’s problematic exams schedule. Quadlings petition for longer local library hours, internationals for a longer break and professors for a longer reading period. Meanwhile, each night Lamont fills up like the Hindenburg—ready to blow—driving the student body close to burnout. Fixing this very simple problem would, at least, be one easy way of taking the heat off Harvard students.

Juliet Samuel ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.