UF students return to cold classrooms


University of Florida students bundle up for heat at Turlington Hall for the first day of classes due to a broken heating system throughout campus on Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

Aaron E. Daye/ The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

University of Florida students returned to chilly classrooms Tuesday, thanks to freezing temperatures and a broken heating system.

UF's heating system has been down for several weeks and the campus is being heated by a backup that is less effective. Officials expect repairs to be done this afternoon at the earliest.

In the meantime, the university e-mailed faculty, staff and students and posted a message on its Facebook page advising them to wear a jacket or sweater inside campus buildings.

Mia Conza took the advice, bundling in a jacket and scarf before biking to class. The 21-year-old English major kept them on after she entered frigid Turlington Hall, but she said she didn't mind.

"It doesn't happen every day, so I kind of enjoy it," she said. "I can wear my jacket for once."

UF's primary heating system, a jet engine at the power plant near the Health Science Center, broke down several weeks ago. A back-up steam boiler system has been heating the campus.

"Like any backup system, it's not as powerful as the main one," said UF spokesman Steve Orlando.

The engine was shipped to the manufacturer to be rebuilt and returned to campus Monday. Officials say it could be back in operation as early as this afternoon.

"We're crossing our fingers," said Eric Cochran, associate director for operations at UF.

The breakdown coincides with the start of the spring semester and a period of near-record cold temperatures. But the weather didn't stop student groups from working Tuesday in Turlington Plaza.

Nirav Patel, 19, expected to spend three hours passing out fliers for the Sigma Beta Rho multicultural fraternity. He wore just a thin sweater over his dress shirt, but had few complaints.

"My hands are getting numb, that's about it," he said.

Cold temperatures are expected to last through the week, but Patel said that won't stop the fraternity's work.

"We've got 5,000 fliers to pass out," he said.

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