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Who Loves the Sun?

Rest assured we’re doing [everything we can].

This was the message of Associate Dean for Student Affairs Giovanni Valiente, as sweltering heat welcomed the Ateneo Law School community when classes resumed last August 7, 2017. The central air-conditioning system of the Ateneo Professional Schools broke down, which forced the students to endure the heat of the classrooms.

In an attempt to make the balmy burden lighter, Dean Sedfrey Candelaria temporarily suspended the dress code for the Law School last August 9, 2018. This allowed students to wear smart casual clothing – an arrangement usually implemented in the summer months of the school year, when the summer heat takes its toll on the air-conditioning units. Aside from suspending the dress code, Dean Candelaria and Associate Dean Valiente also have had talks regarding the possibility of purchasing industrial cooling fans for the class rooms. In the meantime, law students are forced to make do of the situation.

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Student Sentiments

The situation has reached a new temperature as students were asked to weigh in on the matter. Junior Law Student, Edward King Chua of Block 3-C said that other than Justitia all of his classrooms did not have functioning air-conditioning units. Much like the other classes in the law school, his block simply resorted to opening the windows and relying on the recently installed electric fans. Nonetheless, he feels that these measures prove to be inadequate to the air-conditioning issue.

A similar sentiment was echoed by sophomore law student Jonathan Clement Abalos of Block 2-D and Angelica Angeles of Block 3-A. According to Mr. Abalos, six out of his seven classes had non-functioning air-conditioning units, with his class in Veritas being the only one lucky enough to have functional air-conditioning units. He said that it came to the point that one of his professors had to borrow an electric fan just to continue the class. He hopes that the school administration could immediately fix the air-conditioning units, taking into consideration that there was an increase in the tuition fee, and part of that tuition fee was an energy fee. Ms. Angeles likewise said that only one of her classrooms had functioning air-conditioning units – her Robotics Class in Bernas Center under Atty. Michael Ignatius Ingles.

For Ms. Angeles, the issue of the heat is a surface level problem. Because of the heat, some professors are forced to cut their classes short, resulting of course to the professors in the future rushing their syllabus and being forced to conduct make-up classes – a situation which she finds unfair to the students.

She feels that someone has to be held accountable. “I think there’s obvious negligence on [the school administration’s] part. Since the heat makes the class no longer conducive for learning. Obviously there’s an effect on students studying and focusing in class, which will ultimately show in their academic performance.”

The Heat Explained

Because of the rising sentiment from the student body, an interview regarding the technical problems was held. Noel Tugano, Engineer of the Ateneo Professional Schools Facilities Management Office (FMO) explained that the Professional Schools building is reliant on a centralized air-conditioning system, made up of four chillers. As of press time, only Chiller No. 4 is fully operational. The other three proved to be problematic: Chiller No. 1 has been suffering from a freon leak, Chiller No. 2 from a broken circuit and Chiller No. 3 from a broken compressor. As to Chiller No. 3, he said that last August 17, 2017, the Office of the Vice-President for the Professional Schools had already approved purchase of parts for the repair of Chiller No. 3. As of press time, there was still no word from the Office of the Vice-President on the repair for Chiller No. 1 and Chiller No. 2. Engineer Tugano summarized the situation in saying that the Ateneo Professional Schools air-conditioning system is operating at a 2.5/4 capacity.

Efforts from the Law School Administration

According to Dean Valiente, during last summer semester, the Professional Schools encountered the same issue on the air-conditioning units as it is now experiencing. He said that FMO already engaged the services of Conception Industries to work on fixing the air-conditioning units. He said that the administration was caught by surprise why the issue resurfaced.

The issue has not been as simple to remedy on the part of the Law School administration. According to Dean Valiente, “[b]ecause this is facilities, there’s not much the Dean can do other than to raise it to the VP’s office and the FMO.” Moreover, he said that “[b]ecause of this, the possibility of installing split type air-conditioning units independent of the Central Air-Conditioning System would not be possible without the acquiescence from the Professional Schools administration. Our hands are really tied because of the way the Professional Schools is structured.” However, according to him, “the assistant to the Dean (Atty. Patricia Sison-Arroyo) has already pleaded with the Office of the Vice-President and requested they include it (the air-conditioning issue) in the meeting of the VP’s Council.”

Dean Valiente delivered a parting message: “If you can also tell the students that the professors are also suffering. Nagbibiro nga ako na ang hirap mag hanap-buhay. Ito basang-basa na nga ako. (I was joking that it’s hard to make a living. Right now I’m profusely wet from sweating). However, the show must go on.”

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