A Look Back at a Rough Winter

The snow that has plagued the Manhattan College campus is now melting in the beaming sun, however, that isn’t enough to obliterate the treacherous winter from the memories of students and faculty.

This semester alone the school has had four closings, including two that were delayed, and two delayed openings. This as a result has been of much inconvenience to many commuting students and faculty members.

Victoria Hernandez/The Quadrangle

“We’d like not to cancel classes if we can avoid it because we want there to be school but if it seems clear that its going to be dangerous then we obviously do cancel,” Manhattan College Provost William Clyde said. “There are definitely schools that you can tell by the way they cancel, they cancel if there’s any threat of snow at all. In fact there are schools that make their decision at 6 p.m. the night before when you couldn’t possibly tell what the weather is going to be like the next day.”

The provost makes the ultimate decision on whether the school will be closed due to harsh climate. His decision is made after consulting with various members of the community. He consults with the school’s Physical Plant to determine what the conditions are like on the ground of the college. He then consults with Public Safety, the Vice President of Human Resources to inquire about employees and the Vice President of Student Life to inquire about events that are scheduled on campus.

The provost comes to a conclusion based on the facts presented to him by his sources and through his own research. The school has a written policy that serves as a guideline for the closing of the school. The documentation serves as a lay out of procedures and contacts. Each year in November the staff comes together to review any changes to that policy before the snow starts to fall again.

“Given that 70 percent of our students are on campus already, and a lot of them live nearby in apartments and stuff it seems like we should be trying to have class if we possibly can,” Clyde said. “So yes, it’s a balance. We absolutely don’t want to cancel unless we really have to.”

All decisions about school closings or delayed openings are made by 5 a.m., before classes begin. This is to avoid the cancellation of classes that don’t need to be canceled.

“If they [physical plant] tell me that it’s all messy and icy and, they can’t have it ready until like 9:30 a.m., then we do a delayed opening until 10 a.m. so that people aren’t walking around on steps that are all icy,” Clyde said. “And that we try to get it under control. Likewise if the snow is starting in the afternoon and its supposed to get worse and worse and, it looks like its really there…then we’ll cancel the evening classes. Or we’ll do an early cancellation because it’s forecast to get worse and it really seems like its doing that.”

It is not only the conditions of the campus that are taken into consideration, despite the overwhelming amount of students who dorm.

“The community which is a big issue, the commuters, is taken into consideration their situation of getting here,” Robert De Rosa, associate director of public safety and risk management, said. “We are then led also by the NYC Office of Emergency Management, who will say whether or not the streets are opened or closed. So it’s a combination of information.”

Despite the closings of the school however, there are some places on campus that do not close down despite harsh weather conditions. The library, the Office of Public Safety and the Locke’s Loft dining hall are always open despite school closings. These employees are expected to show up regardless of any climate conditions.

“For commuters, it sucks,” Library Assistant Andre Santiago said. “For people that live on campus it’s great. You just go outside by Jasper and you make a snowman. It’s fun if you’re on campus and it’s snowing and you don’t have to go to class. You come out in your pajamas and you start a snowball fight.”

Valerie Jimenez, also a library assistant and Manhattan College graduate, can recall the times when the school used to notify everyone of closings by 5 a.m. This year, she said things were different.

Her brother works for Physical Plant and is part of the crew that removes snow on campus. Her mother is also a Manhattan College employee who facilitates the voicemail on the college’s weather bulletin that states whether school is closed or not, based on the provost’s decision.

“This year it was kind of ridiculous because of the timing,” Jimenez said. “Like when they opened at 11 a.m. and then they closed at three. I felt bad for commuters because you’ve got commuters coming from Westchester, some coming from Brooklyn, Queens and Ocean Park. It’s not fair because sometimes by the time they get here the school is closed.”

“My brother was dead during the last storm,” Jimenez said. “He worked during the last storm from 7 a.m. to almost 8 p.m. because he was shoveling. He pretty much lives across the street so he’s the first one that they call because they call whoever lives the closest.”

Robert Coleman, coordinator of media technology of communication and broadcasting professor, and has one of the longer commutes to campus. He lives in Warwick, a small town in Orange County, New York. His morning drive is typically an hour and a half, through two mountains and over several bridges.

“Thursday we closed school at 12, so I drove to work and of course it took me two hours to get to work because of the bad weather,” Coleman said. “I had a three hour class at 11 p.m. So I drove for two hours, talked for an hour, and then drove two hours back home.”

“Now I have two classes, one on Tuesdays and one on Thursdays,” Coleman said. “Now they’re not in sync because one Tuesday we had no class totally, so that got me a little off. So it made my classes out of sync because of the inequality of the times that we were meeting.”

Two weeks ago during some harsh snow weather the school hadn’t closed down early. As a result, it took Coleman four hours to get home because Palisades Road had closed down due to the bad roads.

“I think everybody that’s part of the college community needs to understand that the emphasis is on the safety of the people that are involved here at the campus,” said Andrew Ryan, Vice President for Facilities Management. “Can we get them to the campus and home from the campus safely. And can they move around the campus safely.”

The administration puts an emphasis on clearing the pathway to Thomas Hall first, so that students are able to make their way to the campus lunchroom for food.

“Nobody here on this campus, that I know of, dictates the weather,” Ryan said. “So you know we just have to deal with what the repercussions are. There’s a lot of effort that goes into the thought process of whether or not we can get things done safely because it’s never anybody’s intent to put anybody out there in a dangerous situation. And sometimes we’re right on the money and sometimes we’re off by a few hours. The college closed preemptively the day of Juno. But that was in reaction to what every single weather forecaster said was going to be an absolute disaster.”

The snow days haven’t completely been an unfortunate event for everyone on campus.

Assistant professor of Spanish, Antonio Cordoba, has seen it has a positive experience.

“It hasn’t really affected me at all,” Cordoba said. “It’s been more like the pleasure of getting snow days. I’m not like other professors who come from Brooklyn. It hasn’t affected me at all.”

Cordoba says he usually has classes in between canceled classes and hasn’t had to cancel much because of his afternoon scheduling.

“My commute is so easy its only 45 minutes on the 1 train,” Cordoba said. “There has never been an issue. It’s business as usual. Sunday I found myself with a whole week of paid vacation because nothing happened to us on the Upper West Side, so snow days for me aren’t a problem. The snow doesn’t bother me either because I don’t drive and the train has been working so well.”