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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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Letter to the Editor: UMW’s handling of recent snow leaves commuters on icy ground

Dear Editor,

Last year, I heard complaints from several students concerning the University of Mary Washington’s response to inclement weather. At the time, I excused the University because of the sheer volume of snow dumped on Fredericksburg.

Last night, according to the National Weather Service, Fredericksburg got between 0.07 inches and 0.11inches of precipitation. My wife, who attends UMW, was nervous about the commute from our home in Bowling Green, but I noted that our city-owned streets were salted and safe to drive, so I was sure UMW would have their sidewalks and roads cleared for classes on Wednesday.

Side Note: Bowling Green has one quarter the population of UMW’s student population.

Much to my surprise, I heard reports that the roads entering the parking deck were still frozen and had traces of black ice. I was able to confirm this later when I had to drive into town to run an errand.

I admit that I may not know the subtle authorizations required for upkeep of the roads during inclement weather, but the UMW has some form of responsibility for the overall safety of its students. The University owes it to their students, at a minimum, release a warning that some passages are hazardous and notify teachers of possible commuting students’ delays.

UMW’s transportation website even has a page for “Current Issues” facing the University’s properties. This morning, it noted: “Updates Pending.”

I personally graduated from a large university in North Carolina where any hazards could be viewed via homepage, text alerts, e-mail or through an automated phone system.  Students operated most systems.

UMW being one of the Southeast’s Best Colleges, according to the Princeton Review, should be able to offer some form of warning system, or better utilize the existing one, to help ensure the safety of students who may be focused on starting classes, getting to work, fighting the rush-hour congestion on US-1 and having to beware of black ice or other hazards from an already long commute.

As a husband that pays for his wife to get a quality education, I at least expect the courtesy of knowing the University is making efforts to warn our students of possible dangers.

They should either let us know what they plan to do about inclement weather or what alternate plans students should make. Not being willing to do either one of these shows a disconnect between the administration and their students.

In the future, I sincerely hope the University will do a better job thinking about all their students and will institute budget-neutral procedures (such as electronic notification or web postings) for notifying students of potential danger areas on campus that may or may not be safe for transit.”

Joseph Pack


  1. George Farrar

    On the night cited in the letter, university staff drove and walked on College Avenue and on all of the university’s roads throughout the night. UMW crews were assessing and treating roads from 5 p.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. In our estimation, all traffic areas were free of bare ice, all had been treated at least once, and we believed they were fit to be used by commuters. The administration takes this responsibility very seriously.

  2. Kathie Belrose-Ramey

    My daughter and I are both students at UMW and commute from Culpeper. I love UMW and what it is has to offer. However, I am very concerned that the administration has little to no regard for the safety of commuting students.

    I write this letter from a hotel room. My lab class ended at 5pm, and by then the roads were too dangerous to make it home to Culpeper. My daughter left UMW three hours earlier and reports that she nearly did not make it down Rt. 3, and thought she might have to abandon our vehicle in our subdivision.

    Recently, I have met many other commuting student; more than I expected. We have all voiced our concerns over this matter to each other.

    The above letter, by Mr. Pack, and response, by Mr. Farrar, spoke of the immediate road and sidewalk conditions around UMW and such notificiations. However, does UMW give any consideration to the many students that have to commute to UMW, and from locations far from the campus boudaries? Does this enter into the decision to delay and/or cancel school? As I sit here in my hotel room, unable to return home as UMW did not cancel afternoon classes- I wonder about the answer to this question.

    Additionally, in agreement with Mr. Pack, I find it even more distressing that at 9:40PM –while all the surrounding county schools (including Spotsylvania County Schools), governments, etc., have officially closed tomorrow–UMW has not. I have grave concerns that UMW WILL open tomorrow, putting my teenaged daughter/UMW student on the road and in harms way.

    I don’t know the number of commuting students, but I am certain that the percentage is likely increasing every year. I do know that, at least by my own experiences at UMW, commuting students have reason to believe that inclment weather decisions don’t consider our needs and safety.

    Kathie Belrose-Ramey