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Monday, August 02, 2021
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"Anthropology classes, offices battle heat and noise issues"

University updates heating system, professors and students affected

Professor Fred Klaits' students couldn't hear a word he was saying.

On Feb. 4, Klaits stopped his anthropology class for 20 minutes because a jackhammer above his classroom was so noisy, he couldn't make himself heard.

His class is in Millard Fillmore Academic Center, where UB is replacing its old heating system. Construction started a couple weeks ago in the beginning of the semester - just as UB's seven-week winter session came to an end.

The timing of the project has frustrated students and faculty in the anthropology department, which is located in the building.

Since the beginning of the semester, noise has disrupted classes. Klaits communicated with his students by writing questions on the projector. Jaume Franquesa, an assistant anthropology professor, considered moving his class to a different room. The anthropology department has been in contact with UB and the noise has ceased this week, according to Klaits.

"It was extremely frustrating," Klaits said. "I have a class to teach and I wasn't able to teach it. I think that the noisy work needs to be done at times when classes are not in session."

The work in Millard Fillmore, located in Ellicott Complex, is part of a multimillion dollar, multi-year energy efficiency project funded by the New York Power Authority (NYPA)to update aging infrastructure and equipment on North and South Campuses, according to Joseph Desotelle, the manager of engineering support for UB's Facilities Planning and Design.

Millard Fillmore needed new air handlers. The work began in September and picked up again in January.

The Spectrum asked Desotelle why UB began changing the heating system when the semester started instead of during winter break.

"This type of work is usually done during the winter months, where possible, because it is much easier and much more economical to provide temporary heating, where necessary, than to provide temporary cooling," Desotelle said in an email.

But as the work went on, professors and students said it was affecting their classes.

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On Feb. 4, instead of canceling class, Klaits improvised. Because he and his students couldn't communicate while the noise was occurring, his students answered his written questions on their computers. But several of his students, including Bailey Humiston, said the work has been distracting during the past couple weeks. She believes Tuesday's construction took away from her education.

"I felt like I really started to miss out on class discussion, and I work better when I'm actually actively participating," said Humiston, a sophomore music theater major. "So when we were sitting at our computers just writing out the questions that he was asking, basically from the projector, it was just kind of annoying."

Brendan Kerr, who is also in Klaits' class, said he doesn't understand why UB didn't complete the construction in Millard Fillmore over the seven-week winter session.

"A big part of this class is discussion - I think a big part of a lot of anthropology classes are discussion, so the fact that this is going on right now, it's just unbearable," said Kerr, a sophomore biology major.

In addition, the construction has left anthropology offices and classrooms temporarily without heat.

"Many offices in the department didn't have heat in the first week of classes," Franquesa said. "The first Wednesday of classes we didn't have heat, and we were all freezing ... it was like being outside. It was very cold."

UB provided space heaters for the department's offices.

"With the space heater, by the end of the day, it was cold but OK," Franquesa said.

Franquesa said the heating issue has been "more or less fixed."

The old air handlers in Millard Fillmore, and throughout much of Ellicott Complex, had to be changed because they were the buildings' original units and were "nearing the end of their useful life," according to Desotelle.

He said over the last two to three years, there have been multiple meetings to keep faculty and staff in the affected areas updated about all of the infrastructure changes.

The NYPA project in Ellicott Complex is expected to be complete by May.




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