Can we invest in silent air conditioners?

Date: September 2018


Dear Dean, 

I’m in class in Rockefeller Hall as I write this email [on a hot day]. I’m trying to focus on the professor teaching highly technical concepts and I cannot hear his voice over the sound of raging construction right at the window. We would close the window but we are already sweating profusely in this beautifully historical building where there is no central air. I feel that these circumstances are affecting my ability to hear the professor, retain information, and focus. There are white fans propped up in the window that minimally circulate air, and I’m sitting a few seats away from it and still sweating…I can only imagine the students in the last row. I think it’s time to invest in some indoor silent air conditioners at the very least. Are you at all able to do this? 


Tension Headache Waiting to Happen


Dear Tension Headache Waiting to Happen,

Thanks for your Ask a Dean question.  I’m sorry you had a challenging time in class in Rockefeller Hall during the recent heat wave. 

The Graduate School does not have responsibility (nor resources) to maintain buildings across campus.  That responsibility lies with the colleges and Cornell’s central facilities unit.  However, I passed along your concerns (without your name) to those units, to alert them to the uncomfortable environmental conditions in Rockefeller which are affecting teaching and your learning, in case those units have a solution.  The associate dean of the college indicated that at least for the short term they will try to adjust the construction work schedule as the college is very sensitive to construction activity during regular class hours and aims to minimize disruption to classes. An air-conditioning solution for Rockefeller classroom space is longer-term and under discussion.

I hope the cooler weather we now have and the coming fall will be more conducive to your learning experience. 

Warm (or cool?) regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School