Heating problems have become so persistent at a CUNY community college that administrators have moved most classes online as temperatures outside hover in the 30s and 40s.

A spokesperson for Bronx Community College said the heating issues were “intermittent” and all classes except for lab classes – like nursing and clinical radiography – were moved online starting Nov. 16 through the school’s Thanksgiving holiday.

“We are currently working on fixing the heating issues in time for when students, faculty and staff return after the Thanksgiving holidays,” said BCC spokesperson Richard Ginsberg in an emailed statement.

In an email to students, the school said it would provide “further information on returning to in-person classes” before Nov. 28, raising the possibility the repairs could linger past the holiday break.

The campus initially had no heat for several weeks this fall, even though New York City law requires heat be provided from Oct. 1 through May 31 in residential and commercial buildings.

Earlier this month, faculty and staff complained of their fingertips turning blue inside unheated classrooms, and employees with medical conditions like anemia and neuropathy reported intense discomfort.

Around the first week of November, the boilers were repaired and heat finally switched on, but the fix didn’t last, said associate biology professor Yasmin Edwards. By the second week of November, the system started sputtering and emitting inconsistent temperatures, she said.

“We're having this very hodgepodge situation where some buildings have heat, some buildings don't, some parts of the buildings have a little heat, other parts have no heat,” Edwards said.

She said some students in lab facilities where science experiments have to be done in person are trying to stay warm with bulky winter clothing – making it difficult to conduct their work.

“If your hands are cold, or you feel the need to wear gloves, which was happening in biology labs and chemistry labs, you cannot properly and safely carry beakers and glassware,” Edwards said. “This is what some of our students in those buildings were forced to do.”

BCC staff are also allowed to work remotely. A Nov. 15 email from BCC President Thomas Isekenegbe to the school community about the shift to remote learning said “staff should consult with their supervisors in preparation to work remotely.”

The school has made loaner laptops available for students and says the campus food pantry will remain open for holiday food distribution. The school’s childcare center, which has its own heating supply, will also remain open.

BCC, the oldest community college in the CUNY system, serves approximately 9,500 students. It has 34 buildings, half of which are at least 80 years old. Infrastructural problems have been an issue for years.

In January 2019 a burst pipe at BCC’s Colston Hall flooded the building and destroyed its heating system.

In 2020, fed-up BCC faculty passed a “no confidence” vote against the administration for “allowing gross physical deterioration throughout campus, including a lack of proper lighting and inadequate indoor heating.”

Last year, BCC asked CUNY for $32 million in capital funding to replace “the aging boiler plant” by September 2024, warning that “without the upgrade, there is an increased risk of irreparable system failure with significant programmatic and operational impact.”

The union representing CUNY professional staff and faculty said the heating problems are the result of years of severe underfunding that have led to infrastructural problems across the system.

“Bronx Community College can't keep the heat working because years of delayed maintenance and underfunding have left CUNY short-staffed and unable to keep our buildings in safe, working order,” said James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress, in a statement. “The cold that BCC students, 93% of whom are Black and Latinx, felt in class this week was a chilling reminder of how little regard the political establishment has for our communities.”

Edwards, the BCC professor, said she understood the challenges presented by old buildings but wants better communication from the school’s administration in dealing with chronic heating problems.

“The challenge we have is just the lack of communication and the obfuscation,” she said, referring to the school’s issues with intermittent heat. “We all know that come October, November, the temperatures will fall. But every year, we end up with the same situation.”