Heat goes on over stuffy lecture theatre

Second-year law student and class representative Daniel Doughty holds a petition calling for action over hot and stuffy conditions in a University of Otago lecture theatre. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Second-year law student and class representative Daniel Doughty holds a petition calling for action over hot and stuffy conditions in a University of Otago lecture theatre. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A group of hot and bothered University of Otago law students is concerned over rising temperatures in a lecture theatre, saying their ability to learn is being affected.

Concern about overheating in Archway 4 lecture theatre prompted 185 second-year law students to sign a petition calling for improvements in the theatre, student magazine Critic reported this week.

Otago University told the Otago Daily Times yesterday it took the concern seriously and was looking for a temporary fix for the lecture block's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

Law lecturer Prof Andrew Geddis was glad the university was taking the situation seriously and hoped a solution would be found soon.

''The students are paying several thousand dollars to take [law] and frankly they are being asked to learn in conditions that are suboptimal,'' Prof Geddis said.

The ''unbearably hot'' conditions left people fanning their faces or falling asleep.

''You are trying to teach the intricacies of constitutional law to them under these circumstances and it just doesn't work.

''The fact that I know students are falling asleep in the back rows of my lectures - now I may not be the world's greatest teacher, but I'm not that bad.''

The issue was at its worst in the afternoon at the back of the theatre and was not isolated to hot days.

''On the warm sunny days, the sun heats the place too much and then when the polar blast came through they turned the heating on and that had the same effect.''

Class representative Daniel Doughty (20) said the situation was definitely affecting students' ability to learn.

The issue was particularly bad for second-year law students because all their lectures were held in Archway 4, Mr Doughty said.

He was pleased with the university's response to the petition, which showed students could influence university decisions.

Otago University property services director Barry MacKay confirmed it received the student petition last Friday and was treating the issue with ''due seriousness''.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in the Archway building was due to be replaced by the start of next year, but in the meantime property services was ''moving quickly'' to find ways of improving the old system.

''The key issue may be a need to improve airflow, especially in high humidity conditions, which cause a greater sensation of heat to be felt.''

As it was policy not to intrude on lectures in progress, property services was reliant on lecturers to report any issues as they occurred and it could find no record of such communication.

Prof Geddis said all teachers of afternoon law lectures in the theatre wrote to property services at the start of the semester to point out the problem and informal complaints had been raised previously.

''I find it hard to believe that property services could be completely unaware of what it has been like.''

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz