It was a surprise to everyone to wake up to an unwarranted winter wonderland. Mother Nature pulled the ultimate April Fool’s joke a day early, smothering the dreams of warm weather with slushy, slippery snow. I slipped once, from my way back from the gym at 8:30 a.m., which was just enough time to dissuade me from the thought of attending classes.
But what surprised me more than the onslaught of disgusting snow was the university’s unwillingness to take action and do anything. There was no email sent out at the start of the hailstorm this morning, warning students of the impending snow and unexpected conditions. Classes were not cancelled or delayed, much to the dismay of the commuter students. The Long Island Expressway was backed up, with the traffic extending into Nicolls Road, forcing students to miss morning classes.
Joe DiVirgilio, a senior commuter student studying mechanical engineering, struggled to get to campus. “[It took] one and half hours to get to campus, a trip that usually takes me at most, twenty minutes” DiVirgilio said. Commuters and residents were put in an even tighter situation when buses were unexpectedly suspended because of “dangerous weather conditions,” according to the SBU Emergency Management Twitter account. Commuters who somehow made it to campus before their classes were dumbfounded at the lack of the bus service at South P. Most ended up getting back in their cars and leaving campus.
So here is the question of the hour: why were classes not cancelled or at the very least, delayed? When the school can quote “dangerous weather conditions” as reasons to explain the suspension of buses, they better be prepared to extend that same courtesy to commuter students driving in the same environment, or residents walking across campus to get to class. Trying to walk to the SAC from Roth Quad was difficult enough–the cleaning efforts did not begin until about 10:30 a.m. in the academic area from my observations, and if precedence rules, will not extend to any of the quads until much later today or even tomorrow morning. What is intolerable about this situation is that the school did not even extend the basic courtesy of informing the students of the bus suspension, the slush covered roads or even the car accidents that occurred this morning.
The theory that seems to be racking the minds of most students is how the arrival of the Middle States Re-Accreditation committee could be the driving factor behind the school keeping classes running on schedule. Despite keeping mum about weather conditions, the administration was able to send out a prompt reminder email at 10:07 a.m. to students, explaining their “delight” at welcoming the team to our campus. At 10:07 a.m., the only email I was expecting was one about future plans for cancellations and efforts to clean the snow, and perhaps even a warm-hearted “Stay safe, students!” Instead, Facebook and Twitter were on fire with bitter comments from students about still having classes and not getting any notice about emergency situations when there were students slipping on roads and car accidents being reported on campus. SB Alert was left without a single update and the only communication from the university came from the SBU Emergency Management Twitter account, which was the only official source to inform the students about the state of the transit system.
When Assistant Police Chief Eric Olsen was pressed about why students were left stranded at South P and the Railroad bus stops, he could only respond that this incident was a fluke and that Emergency Management did the best that it could. “The roads weren’t safe—this was frustrating and we understand that, but [students] were safer at Wolfie’s Hut than on the roads,” Olsen said.
This is absurd. Although Olsen stated that the Emergency Management webpage was updated as to the status of the buses, this is not enough. These alterations to the scheduled busing should have been pushed to students via email and text messages, especially as it is the most direct line of communication to students. Not only that, but it is extremely unreasonable to expect students, especially commuters, to get to class without the operation of the campus transit system.
At the end of the day, the lack of communication between the administration and students is completely unacceptable. When the university can send out a reminder for the Middle States re-accreditation, they should also be sending out several emails about updates on the weather and plans of delays or cancellations. It makes me wonder where the focus of the administration was this morning when students were facing a personal hazard with the snow and nothing was being done to alleviate that stress. In my opinion, student safety is a topic that should be addressed as a top priority. If that is not an issue of key importance, I cannot seem to understand how any of the other issues that the university is being evaluated on by the re-accreditation committee really sum up to a stellar reputation.