University prepares for students, heat

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Southeast Missouri State University plans to provide relief to students at its aging Dearmont residence hall by renting temporary air-conditioning equipment for the first month of the fall semester.

Trailer-mounted air-conditioning equipment powered by its own generators will blow cool air into the building through flexible ducts.

"These are high-end," said Bruce Skinner, Southeast's residence life director. "We haven't tried it before, so it is sort of a learning experience."

Southeast will spend about $30,000 to rent the equipment for a month.

School officials say the cost will be paid from the campus housing contingency budget. Students in Dearmont won't be charged higher rates to pay for the expense, Skinner said.

School officials believe it's worth the cost.

"We believe we can drop the temperature down," Skinner said. "When it is approximately 100 degrees outside, we can get it into the upper 70s in the rooms," he said.

The trailer unit was used last weekend at the Professional Golf Association tournament in Oklahoma.

The equipment should be on site later today and up and running by Friday morning at the latest, Skinner said.

Some 1,200 freshmen are expected to move into campus residence halls today, signaling the unofficial start of the fall semester. Dearmont is the only campus residence hall that isn't air-conditioned.

Two of 10 sections of the three-story residence hall have been outfitted with portable air-conditioning units in the rooms. That will serve about 70 students.

The remaining 260 students would have had to deal with the sweltering heat without the rented air-conditioning equipment, Skinner said.

When classes begin Monday, a record 2,600 students are expected to be housed on campus, Skinner said. That's about 150 more students than in any previous year, he said.

Campus residence halls will be so full of students that the university isn't admitting any more freshmen who need campus housing for the fall semester.

Admissions director Debbie Below said the university has received 200 applications for enrollment since Aug. 1. But more than half of them are seeking to enroll in courses at the university's satellite campuses. Many of the others live within commuting distance of the school and don't need campus housing. Others don't meet the eligibility requirements, she said.

In all, Below expects only five or six applicants seeking admission to classes on the main campus will have to be turned down because no space is available in the residence halls.

More than 500 campus housing staff members and student volunteers are expected to help haul in freshmen's carloads of clothes, televisions, computers, mini refrigerators and other personal belongings.

With temperatures expected to approach 100 degrees, Skinner said the university will do its best to combat the heat. "We have more than 5,000 chilled bottles of water," he said. Water bottles and big water coolers will be available at all the residence halls.

Southeast will have two nurse's stations set up on campus today, one near the Towers complex and another near Dearmont to deal with any medical emergencies that might be caused by the heat, Skinner said.

335-6611, extension 123

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