For Faculty and Staff, Snow Days are No Walk in the Park



Not all of us can simply hit snooze when we have a snow day or delayed opening. For teachers, faculty and staff, snow days can make things very complicated.

“Conversations usually take place the evening before, but final decisions are made at 5:00 a.m. and then subsequently throughout the day in the case of delays,” provost Dr. William Clyde said about how snow days are determined.

Clyde consults with those in charge of facilities regarding the navigability of campus and the vice presidents for student life and human resources among others in making the decision.

“We track the National Weather Service, several weather forecast pages, traffic information, the MTA site, various school closing websites, actions by New York City public schools and the actions of other colleges and universities in our area,” Clyde said.

He aims for a decision to be sent out around 5:15 a.m. The campus is notified via e2Campus immediately and the message is also posted on the web page and sent through social media channels, according to Clyde.

However, for some staff and faculty, this notification is not always helpful.

“I don’t have texting on my phone so I usually call the weather hotline or call the security guard on duty using the non-emergency number,” said Debbi Damico, international student advisor. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t efficient for me on Monday since I missed the announcement that school had been cancelled and came here.”

Damico lives in New Jersey and said she decided not to come in on Wednesday because she heard on the radio and TV that the roads were not going to be in good condition for driving.

“As it was, my town received about six to seven inches of snow on top of what fell on Monday and there was a great deal of sleet and freezing rain on top of that. Given those conditions, I’m glad that I followed my instincts and stayed home,” Damico said.

Like Damico, many other professors drive a long way to get to work every day and the decision to cancel classes may be made too late.

Brian Conway, general manager of Gourmet Dining Services, has a different experience with snow days than those of Clyde.

Conway said that the employees for the dining services have a phone number that they can call regarding closings and delays.

As with many jobs, Gourmet Dining employees are never forced to come to work, regardless of weather. Conway said that the employees just have to adjust accordingly even on days like last Monday when over 30 employees called and said they could not get to work.

The things that make a snow day for classes different from a snow day for Gourmet Dining employees is that dining services are necessary so that students can eat. Gourmet Dining employees do not get days off because of a snow storm.

“The unique thing about higher education food service is that there is really never a time we fully close,” Conway said. “As long as the school is in session, regardless of whether there are classes or not, we are responsible to feed the resident students here at the college.”

The only time Conway remembers the dining halls closing was in October 2012. “During hurricane Sandy all students were asked to stay in their dorm rooms for a period of time.  During that time, we delivered close to 4,000 meals […] to the dorms,” he said.

Conway said that Gourmet Dining instructed its employees to use their judgment and stay home if they could not arrive safely. Even then, over a dozen workers came to work during Hurricane Sandy in order to personally deliver meals to the dorms.

The director of public safety, Juan Cerezo, said that “these are always difficult decisions and we take them very seriously.  We try to balance safety with the fact that students and faculty want to meet if they possibly can.  And we have to do it without knowing what the weather will really do, both in Riverdale and where our students, faculty and staff live.”

Cerezo also said that it was decided to cancel classes this past Monday before a single flake of snow was on the ground.

“The easy thing to do would be to cancel under any threatening circumstances, but if we experience a lot of bad weather, as is forecast for this winter based on global weather patterns, many faculty and students will be unhappy to miss so much class time,” Cerezo said.