Two of the three remaining college houses at Penn without air conditioning will finally be installing a cooling system this coming summer.
Kings Court English College House and Du Bois College House are scheduled to have air conditioning installed in the summer of 2019, Penn’s Business Services Division spokesperson Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Gregory College House — the third dorm without AC — is also on the plan, but Lea-Kruger said she could not provide a time estimate on the project given that the University is still undergoing the planning phase of the operation.
The study phase exploring the options of installing AC in these dorms launched in September 2016, she added.
For years, students living in these dorms have suffered from uncomfortable heat. This year, during the hot first few weeks of school, freshmen living in KCECH reported sleeping in lounges, libraries, and computer labs in a desperate effort to avoid their overheated dorm rooms.
Even though Facilities and Real Estate Services, as well as Business Services, tried to alleviate the situation by adding portable air conditioning in some locations and offering Italian ice to residents, students reported still sweltering in the heat.
Carol Leavitt, mother of a Wharton and Engineering senior and a 2018 Penn graduate, said it bothered her that her children were living in uncomfortably hot environments, especially knowing other dorms had much nicer amenities. She said her son lived in Gregory for his first two years at Penn and her daughter was assigned to live in KCECH her freshman year.
“I’ve been there during the move-in and move-out and it’s miserable,” Leavitt said. “I hate being in that room just for the short time just trying to help pack up, so I couldn’t imagine having to be in that room and study and focus.”
Leavitt’s daughter found it so challenging to work in her dorm room that she asked to stay in a hotel during finals week.
“It was so hot she couldn’t concentrate and she felt like she wouldn’t do as well on her finals if she had to stay in the hot dorms,” Leavitt said. “So actually I did that. I did get her a hotel room.”
She added that she is against the administration’s recent announcement requiring all undergraduate sophomore students to live on campus in college houses, until all dorms have air conditioning.
“I think that’s a terrible idea unless they all have air conditioning because I don’t think anybody would want to stay there two years if they happen to get the short straw in the dorm lottery,” Leavitt said.
College freshman and KCECH resident Diya Singh spent her first two weeks at Penn sleeping in the dorm lounge.
“I’d have to go and put my bedding on one of the couches at around seven or eight, so that I’d be able to get a couch because they fill up pretty fast,” Singh said.
Singh, as well as College freshman and KCECH resident Lindsay Smith, said it is unfair for all students to pay the same price given that some dorms are more luxurious than others.
“It’s kind of frustrating when you’re paying the same price as everyone else for room and board, but you still can’t even use your own dorm room,” said Smith, who spent most nights sleeping in the lounge or staying with friends who lived in air-conditioned college houses during the first month of the school year.
Singh acknowledged, however, that housing should be accessible to everybody, referring to the fact that the 2016 price revamp was meant to allow freshmen access to both doubles and singles in first-year houses, regardless of how much they could afford.
“I feel like that’s a double-edged sword in a way,” Singh said. “I understand that everybody should have access, but if that is the case then all of the dorms should have the same qualities.”
But given that each college house provides varying levels of amenities, Smith said it would be a good decision for Penn to revert to varying housing prices to better reflect the experience each dorm provides.
“I think that would be more honest,” Smith said. “Because it really does make no sense why I’m paying the same price as someone else for a worse experience. It should be reflected in the cost.”