The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Classes canceled, relocated or moved online due to air conditioning issues and extreme heat in Combs Hall

2 min read
A photo of Combs Hall.

Classes were canceled in Combs Hall due to excessive heat from air conditioning failures. Kenya Carter | The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

Students and professors in Combs Hall experienced increased heat in the building throughout the summer into the beginning of the semester, until the AC gave out during the second week of classes. Classes in Combs were either canceled, moved online or moved to different buildings until the AC was repaired.

“I’ve been here all summer,” said Dan Hubbard, associate professor of historic preservation. “I’ve been very fortunate because my office is actually on the first floor, which has always been the cold spot, so I didn’t have any difficulties, but it was clear that we knew something was wrong.”

Junior studio art major Sarah Yowell’s class moved online temporarily.

“I’m taking a French class in the bottom level of Combs,” she said. “It has been pretty hot in the building since the first day of classes and gradually got worse to the point where we had to go to class virtually one day. It gets hard to concentrate when all you can focus on is trying not to sweat rather than the class.”

Historic preservation professor Andréa Levi Smith said that teaching over Zoom during the COVID pandemic helped prepare students and professors for moving online during the AC issue.

“The COVID crisis in a sense helped us, and now we all know how to go on Zoom and how to make our classes go online,” said Smith. “I have students who are in quarantine pretty regularly, this was actually easier to adapt to now than it would have been pre-COVID.”

University Provost Tim O’Donnell and President Troy Paino sent out emails regularly regarding the outage and came to check on Combs throughout the summer and during the first week of classes. 

“I’m very surprised that even President Paino came over but particularly, Provost O’Donnell was over here several times in the worst of the heat, actually personally checking on the temperature,” said Hubbard.

Some were critical of the response time to the AC issue.

“I think the school could have been a bit faster in the initial response time to the AC breaking the first time, but they were pretty fast about the second instance during the week,” said freshman Chiara Baez.

While the initial outage has been resolved, questions still remain about the longevity of the fix.

“I guess if I were going to predict, I would predict that it’ll be on and off in different parts of the building, I think faculty offices have often lost HVAC even when the main parts of the building still had it,” said Ben LaBreche, professor of English literature.

Due to staff error, a previous version of this article misspelled Andréa Livi Smith’s name. This version has been corrected.