Not cool: Automotive deals with faulty air conditioners

Andrew Abonales writes a repair order for the shop management class in the Advanced Automotive Technology Building at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif., on Oct. 16, 2023. Photo by Joe Alvarado


During his summer teaching sessions, Automotive professor Michael Van Dyke observed that the air conditioning system exhibited problems. 

The AC unit initially provided a cool environment but would periodically shut off, causing discomfort to his students. Van Dyke took the initiative to mitigate the heat by bringing fans in his classrooms.

Students and faculty at Pierce College continue to suffer the relentless discomfort of a broken air conditioning system. The persistent issues with the HVAC system not only hampers the learning and working environment for the students but also poses health and safety concerns. 

The fans provided a temporary solution, allowing students to experience some relief from the heat. The fan noise proved to be a significant distraction, making it challenging for many students to concentrate on the lecture. 

Van Dyke had to make the decision to relocate to a different classroom. As a result, students had to attend the first two hours of the lecture in one building and then walk across campus to participate in the two-hour lab session. 

“I really can sympathize with my students, they need a comfortable learning environment and they are being deprived of that,” Van Dyke said. “My main concern is my students, I have had so many students come up to me and tell me these conditions are taking away their ability to absorb any information I am teaching them.”

Throughout the summer, Van Dyke and his instructional aids put in multiple work orders for the air conditioning unit. Each time a technician would come out to fix the problem, they said they would have to come back again to follow up on the issue.

But no one would return. 

Van Dyke and his students were not the only ones who experienced the broken AC unit. 

Department chair Alex Villalta also raised concerns about the ongoing issue. When he first walked into the class, the thermostat was initially at 73 degrees but as students began to pile in the class, the temperature rose to 92 degrees. Villalta stated that the buildings retain a lot of heat, especially since they are right next to the mountains. 

He had to cancel his class a couple times throughout the semester as the heat was unbearable for his students to be able to focus. Villalta has sent multiple emails and submitted a few work orders about the broken air conditioner.

“This issue has affected my students’ performances and my morale. We are halfway through the semester and we are still having the same issues. I really don’t know much longer my students and I can work under these conditions,” Villalta said. “I have seen students clearing sweat from their arms. It’s embarrassing for me, I’ll tell you that much. We are not getting the results we were promised. This is a major safety issue for our students. We need to be brave and push for our students. I cannot wait another month for this issue to be resolved.”

Student worker for the Automotive Department Daniel Montiel said that they don’t have access to the units, and that all they can do is request or ask whoever is in control of them to maybe lower the temperature, but it does not always go through. 

“It gets lost in translation,” Montiel said.

Montiel said that students are overpacked in the classrooms. 

“As soon as the 40 to 45 students pack in, it gets really hot because there are a lot of us in there, and there are also the computers running inside,” Montiel said. 

College Project Director (CPD) Andre Haghverdian explains that this issue was brought up by Alex Villalta at the last Pierce Council meeting. Villata told him that it had been months since he had heard anything about the problem being resolved. 

“At the time during the Pierce College Council meeting, I hadn’t heard anything about the issue,” Haghverdian said. “It was very frustrating for me to hear that this was affecting the students’ ability to focus on the lecture. Since the meeting, we are having mechanics further inspect the air conditioning units in the building.” 

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