Students express concern over snow decisions
By HOPE RACINE
Students flocked to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the University of Mary Washington’s decision to remain open for classes two hours late on Wednesday, Feb. 18, rather than close for the day.
On Tuesday night, Vice President of Administration and Finance Rick Pearce notified the community that the university would have a two-hour delay on Wednesday, while other classes would be held as usual.
The announcement was posted on the university Facebook page, where it received almost 200 comments from students who disagreed with the decision. The majority of students expressed concern over the safety of commuter students in particular.
“A lot of commuters are not happy because their roads are not cleared and the parking situation on campus is bad to start off, but with the snow piled up on College Avenue, it was even worse,” said Evan Smallwood, the president of the commuter students association. “The students on campus only had to worry about the possible ice patch while walking, while the commuters have to worry about it while driving.”
Smallwood, like many students who commented, stressed that commuter students face different challenges when getting to school.
“It seems like that is not something that the university takes into consideration, even with it being vocalized on social media,” said Smallwood.
The University announced truncated hours on Monday, Feb. 16 following an announcement from Gov. Terry McAuliffe that Virginia was in a state of emergency. The University closed at 3 p.m. and remained closed throughout Tuesday.
According to Pearce, the decision to open on Wednesday was made after considering a series of factors.
“I used all the information I had at hand,” said Pearce. “I had done a lot of driving around myself, and I rely on a very experienced staff. I rely on the state police, the state’s emergency response group and local organizations.”
Many students emailed school officials such as Pearce and Director of Media and Public Relations Marty Morrison to voice their disagreement.
“I received almost 50 or 60 emails, and I couldn’t respond to them all,” said Pearce. “Marty sent out a few nice responses, explaining the university stance. But a lot of people weren’t interested in getting clarification.”
When the University opened on Wednesday morning, Facilities Services workers had cleared many sections of campus, though Campus Walk remained largely covered with ice and snow, along with several commuter parking lots and spaces on College Avenue.
Certain roads, such as the hills leading to Marshall Hall and the Sunken Road parking deck, were closed off due to ice concerns.
Many students, such as junior Kimberly Carbajo, posted photos of snow covered campus paths on Wednesday morning. Carbajo, who was walking from Marshall to Combs, shared a photo of the stairs next to the basketball court, which were largely covered in ice and snow.
Students looking to avoid climbing the hill from Marshall had to face the stairs to get to class.
“[I] could take the hill, but that seems like the more dangerous option since it’s steep even on a normal day,” said Carbajo. “I didn’t feel like risking it today.”
Other students disagreed that the conditions were too dangerous for class.
“I haven’t had any trouble walking across campus. There is ice, but it is easy enough to avoid,” said sophomore women’s and gender studies major Blair Gruendl. “I live in Marshall, and if I can get to my classes then I think anyone can get to their classes.”
Facilities Services workers labored throughout the day and night to minimize the risk of ice on campus and clear paths to academic buildings.
“I think they definitely should have salted or put sand down, but there’s a decent enough path cleared that I’m satisfied enough to get to my classes,” said Gruendl.
To make matters more difficult on Facilities Services workers, a pipe burst in the Information and Technology Convergence Center, flooding substantial parts of the fourth floor. The clean up and repairs from this damage pulled workers away from the snow removal process.
Throughout the day, more students used social media as a platform to share photos of poor conditions, while even more shared stories about slipping or falling on campus.
“They did a poor job of clearing the roads for commuter students,” said junior English major Karlin Hoffman. “There was next to no safe parking along College Avenue and, from what I hear, the designated parking locations for commuter students were not cleared as well as they should have been. Conditions on campus were not ideal for many students, including myself.”
With more snow on the forecast for this week, Pearce will likely face this decision several more times this semester.
“I use my best judgment,” said Pearce. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’m confident in my decision.”