By Renée Bartlett-Webber
Trustee President Alan Wong called for an emergency board meeting that was held on March 14. “The heating issues at our City College campuses are unacceptable,” wrote Wong in his meeting announcement two days prior. Despite the short notice, many members of the public attended to express their distress over the lack of heat as well as other operational issues.
By the end of the meeting, the board approved the transfer of $2.6 million to a fund that will be used to fix the heat issues, and three other action items to help expedite contracts. While allocating the funds is a necessary step, it will still take months to repair the buildings that don’t have heat. Members of the public appealed to the board to address solutions that will help now.
“We have taken temporary measures. We have provided space heaters… Additionally we have provided hand warmers, recognizing that it’s not a long-term fix but it is something that we can provide to give short-term comfort for our students and employees in the classroom,” said Chancellor David Martin.
Many of the 17 public commenters said that faculty were only provided two hand warmers in the beginning of the semester and that students didn’t have any. Some instructors didn’t receive a space heater and those who had, said that they were not effective. “As everyone has said here, space heaters don’t work. Even if you put two of them, even if they don’t blow out the fuses, they don’t change the temperature of the room,” said ESL instructor Kevin Cross.
“I have zero faith that this problem will be fixed in the fall,” said Cross. He echoed many other faculty comments that the administration has known about these issues for years and they have not been fixed. “Coming to a meeting and listening, then not doing anything is just performative.”
“How did we get here?” was a question that both commenters and trustee members asked although it went unanswered. Martin, who has been chancellor for more than two years, said, “looking backwards will not do us any good.”
In addition to the ineffectiveness of the “temporary measures,” commenters also pointed out their dirty classrooms, crumbling ceiling tiles and mold. They addressed the shortage of custodians due to the layoffs from last year and because of a pay gap in offering salaries. “I ask the board to address all facility deficits at all City College locations,” requested ESL instructor Christa Lewis.
While the board approved all action items, there was only one short-term solution that could be addressed immediately: Potentially relocating classrooms to rooms with both heat and air purifiers. Although it’s unclear how many classrooms are available that meet that requirement. The other solutions discussed were investigating alternative heat sources and hiring more facilities workers, both of which will take time.
Trustees Aliya Christi said that there is a communication breakdown and “radio silence is unacceptable.” She offered to meet more often in order to expedite the bid and contracting process to get the heat issues fixed more quickly.