There is a lot more to snow days than canceled class.
On Monday, Feb. 2, Fairfield received approximately 6-10 inches of snow, causing classes and campus offices to close yet again.
While some students spent the day relaxing or catching up on school work, other members of the campus community worked around the clock to prepare for normal operations the next day.
Associate Director of the Department of Public Safety Frank Ficko stated, “When a major storm approaches, it’s a collaborative effort in keeping the campus safe and [getting] back to normal operations as quickly as possible.” He explained that administrators “converse regularly days before a storm to begin preparations and plan accordingly.”
According to Ficko, snowstorm preparations include ensuring there is enough food and fuel, checking equipment and figuring out staffing requirements. He also added that several employees of Facilities Management, Energy, Public Safety, Sodexo and AMB arrive on campus before storms to meet staffing requirements.
Senior Vice President for Administration and Chief of Staff Mark Reed ‘96 explained grounds staff and outside contractors are utilized for snow removal. Roads and primary sidewalks are cleared first, with secondary roads next and parking lots and sidewalks last.
“They work almost non-stop for as long as it takes. We provide meals in the dining hall or take-out for the workers, a place to rest when needed, etc. Ice melt, equipment large and small, etc. are all prepared and mobilized in advance,” stated Reed.
However, not all Fairfield employees had the day off.
Dean of Students Karen Donoghue ‘03 stated that “Just because offices are closed and classes are canceled, students are still here. Appreciation goes out to Sodexo workers, maintenance staff, DPS officers, residence life staff … they work around the clock keeping our communities safe.”
Kendall Lanham, an employee at the Stag Snack Bar said that snow “affects me because I can’t get to work. It’s crazy to drive here on these Fairfield streets and back streets,” from his home in Bridgeport.
Lanham explained that snowy roads are also an issue for his coworkers, especially those who don’t live as close as him and for workers with children who need to stay home because of school cancellations.
He added that despite these issues, they do not feel understaffed during snowstorms.
“Enough people get here,” said Lanham.
“As a residential campus, we never really close,” stated Reed. “This point was driven home to me a few years ago when I came to campus during a storm. Classes were cancelled and offices closed, and I observed one of the dining services workers walking from the bus stop on Post Road to campus to come to work.”
Considering that “staff and faculty know that our default position is to continue classes and operations if at all possible,” Reed added that the administration doesn’t hear many complaints from faculty and staff regarding snow day decisions.
“The biggest complaint I hear from students is when classes remain in session – such as last Monday, Jan. 26 – and individual faculty cancel classes independently,” stated Reed. On Jan. 26, classes after 2 p.m. were cancelled, leaving “sufficient time for people to get on the road and home,” he stated.
Reed stated, “Everyone wants decisions as early as possible or with as much advance notice. I think we do a good job of providing timely communicating while not making premature decisions before we have the best information possible,” stated Reed.
When the decision is made in favor of canceling classes due to the weather, class time becomes a hot commodity for spring semester courses.
“As an adjunct faculty member myself, I can tell you that I worry about how my course schedule and syllabus will affected. Therefore, I suspect others do as well,” stated Reed.
Reed added that most faculty make necessary adjustments, incorporating online course management systems or adding review sessions to their courses.
“Cancelled classes or office closures are disruptive. Many staff and faculty work from home if they can. As long as there is Internet access and electricity, we all continue to do a lot,” stated Reed.
Dr. Janie Leatherman, professor of politics and international studies, told her Border Politics class “that if there are any more weather delays, we will ‘weatherproof’ the class.” While her students seemed surprised initially, by creating online work, Leatherman hopes they will “remain engaged as a class and use alternative strategies to learn together.”
Donoghue stated she rarely receives complaints about snow days from students.
Junior Erin Connors believes that “snow days are a good thing. Why? Because I don’t have to go to school. OK, if there are too many of them, I get overwhelmed with work, like if you miss all of your classes.”
Sophomore Francis Peropat viewed the days off as “a good start to the semester,” but expressed concern, saying, “I feel like teachers might cram in more work for us to catch up.”
Peropat, along with Cormac Kennedy ‘17, enjoyed the days off by making “an igloo that can fit 10 people.”
“But I can’t tell you where though,” said Kennedy.