Following several months of heating concerns in the New South Residence Hall Office, several RHO student workers filed a petition to the Office of Residential Living urging it to address these concerns and work with the Office of Planning and Facilities Management to develop potential solutions for the heating issue.

The recorded temperature of the RHO was over 20 degrees lower than the temperature control range of 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, prompting over 60 student workers to sign the petition.

JULIA ALVEY/THE HOYA | The Office of Residential Living, per the request of the student workers’ petition, placed a new heater in the New South RHO.

Students sent the petition to Residential Living and university administrators last Friday. It received a response from Residential Living staff members within two hours.

New South RHO Assistant Emily Schluper (COL ’21) said the students decided to draft the petition because working in such conditions was becoming unbearable.

We were just kind of getting fed up because it got to the point where, when I went to work, I had to bring gloves and scarves because it was almost colder inside the RHO just sitting there working,” Schluper said.

The demands outlined in the petition are not unreasonable, according to New South RHO Assistant Allie Williams (SFS ’19), who spearheaded the petition. (Full disclosure: Williams previously served on The Hoya’s editorial board.)

It’s pretty straightforward—all we are asking for is that Residential Living complies with laws and provide us with a healthy and safe workplace that meets the minimum temperature standard,” Williams wrote in an email to The Hoya.

The petition outlined a few demands for Residential Living, which included purchasing more space heaters and providing New South RHO management and staff with regular updates from Facilities about any findings related to the heating and insulation of the New South lobby.

Residential Living responded to the petition, assuring students that they are working on a solution with Facilities.

The health and wellness of students is a top priority,” Vice President of Facilities and Planning Management Ben Kuo wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We take their concerns very seriously and have taken prompt action to ensure a safe and comfortable temperature in New South.”

Following the demands of the petition, Residential Living has installed a large heater in the lobby area to provide supplemental heating. Residential Living also recommends that residents avoid deploying the electronic doors — which allows for excess cold air to enter the lobby — unless for accessibility purposes.

While student workers appreciate the university’s current efforts to address the heating issue, they are frustrated over the lack of response from Residential Living prior to the release of the petition, according to Williams.

Although Residential Living has started to address the heating issue in the short term, determining how a more long-term solution can be put in place is difficult, according to New South RHO Assistant Andy Marquez (SFS ’21).

They have been trying to help us with short-term solutions by giving us more heaters, but the long-term solution is, at the moment, complicated and ambiguous because this type of solution requires changes in the infrastructure of the building,” Marquez wrote in an email to The Hoya.

The RHO temperature concerns have been brought up with Residential Living several times over the course of the past few months and have only now been fully addressed, New South RHO Assistant Andrei Bonano (COL ’19) said

“We’ve been in communication with the Office of Residential Living since October, and it’s kind of frustrating that it takes us to make a petition and to send something to departmental heads in order to get some action,” Bonano said.

Many RHO workers feel Residential Living must now meet students halfway and begin addressing issues that are affecting their student workers, according to Williams.

“RHO workers have done everything we can to communicate with Residential Living,” Williams wrote. “The onus is now on them, as our employer, to protect our health and safety and communicate what they are doing to meet legal standards going forward.”

Residential Living has assured students it will communicate with them on a more frequent basis to keep them updated on the status of the RHO heating issue.

“We are continuing to monitor the temperature, investigate sources of the problem, and address the issue. We will provide updates to the New South community as we continue making progress,” Kuo wrote in an email to The Hoya.

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