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HVAC failure leads to campus ITS problems

Two weekends ago PLNU experienced problems with the air conditioning system in Smee Hall, Ryan Library, Ryan Learning Center, Nicholson Commons, Cooper Music Center, Bond Academic Center, Latter Hall and Sator Hall. The Director of Campus Facilities and Sustainability Bruce Kunkel sent an email to PLNU’s staff and faculty last Friday regarding the problem.

“I want to update you on our HVAC issues and also apologize for the miserable conditions some of you have endured recently,” Kunkel wrote. “I know that many of you have been very uncomfortable.”

According to Kunkel a compressor failure on one of the two chiller units that supply air conditioning to the school is what caused the problem. The two units work in tandem for buildings across campus.

Two days later, Corey Fling, chief information officer for the school’s Information Technology Services (ITS) followed up with an email to staff and faculty about the issues that the HVAC failure was causing for the campus’s computer infrastructure.

“This past weekend we suffered multiple failures of the air conditioning and cooling systems in PLNU’s data center on the Point Loma campus,” Fling said, “These failures caused ITS to initiate a ‘minimal resource protocol.’ This protocol is intended to allow ITS to keep business critical applications and services online as long as possible.”

Kunkel said the problem started because the compressor on one of the chiller units, that supply air conditioning, failed.

According to Fling, the resource protocol was meant to reduce the temperature of the school’s data center to prevent damage to its servers and network hardware. ITS added that laboratory computers and printing services were unavailable for faculty and students.

The campus’s phone system, Wi-fi, internet access, Google apps, Student portals – including Canvas.pointloma. edu – were all able to be maintained or restored for the start of classes last Monday. Fling said that all universitywide business services and systems were online on Sunday evening. “The services and systems impacted are primarily back-end support servers or affect only individual departments. Those systems that are not core business systems will not be operational until air conditioning units are fully back online,” Fling said.

ITS was forced to shut down some back-end and “user facing” services last Monday due to continued temperature increases. Printing services in Wesley Computer Lab, along with the services in Hughes Lab, Main Lab, Bond Academic Center computer Lab, and Fermanian Business Center computer lab were all shut down.

ITS worked with professors to relocate any classes that required the computer labs and reschedule classes in both the Main and Hughes Lab.

“Our challenge, on Monday especially, was working with ITS to try and make accommodations for students who needed to print,” said Denise Nelson, Instructional Services Librarian at Ryan Library, “where classes had been scheduled in the labs, ITS – and probably media services specifically since they’re kind of under that umbrella – was working with professors to try and get anything that was scheduled in one lab that wasn’t working into a lab that was working.”

Nelson says that by Tuesday afternoon some of the services in Ryan Library, including the “walk-up” computers were up and working.

The Point was unable to contact ITS for more information about the maintenance of campus computer services or the air conditioning problems.

The compressor failure for the campus’s chiller unit meant poor air conditioning in some buildings, but other buildings have no air conditioning at all. “There are others buildings on campus that do not have HVAC. Some of these buildings have been slated for HVAC installation which should occur in the next few months,” Kunkel said.

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Jonathan Soch

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