Impending Storm: More Snow Days to Come?

940x400px Snow and ice cover the Rose Hill campus. Courtesy of Lauren MacDonald.[/caption]

For some, the wet, slushy snow has transformed the greater New York City area from a beautiful, wintery metropolis to a soggy, freezing mess. For others it means one thing: a snow day.

According to the Weather Channel’s 5-day forecast, the Bronx is expected to receive upwards of five inches of snow starting early Thursday, following last Monday’s six inches, Wednesday’s four inches, and Saturday’s two inches. The recent extreme weather patterns are responsible for the 12-hour traffic jam that occurred on January 28th in Atlanta, Georgia that left many sleeping in their cars.

The closing on Wednesday, February 5th was Fordham University’s fourth snow day due to severe weather since the spring semester began. The Safety and Security team of Fordham University’s campuses are taking all necessary steps to guarantee the safety of every student, faculty member and employee. The persistent snow has many wondering what Fordham’s severe weather protocol is.

Those primarily responsible for severe weather closings are John Carroll, Associate Vice President of Safety and Security and Marco Valera, Vice President of Facilities Management.  The two, with the help of their safety and security teams at each campus, take part in an extensive amount of research when making such decisions. This includes, but is not limited to:  the state of the campus, how well modes of transportation are running and multiple meteorological sources.

“It’s not a science, it’s an art,” said Carroll. “We try to use every piece of available information we can.”

Carroll stated that not only does he consider the Bronx, but also the state of the surrounding boroughs. Fordham holds one of 140 seats in the Office of Emergency Management, a team that handles severe weather in Manhattan, New York.

“Fordham University in conjunction with Columbia [University], NYU, and Pace [University] has one of the seats on that team. So we’re getting information from the city, and from how they’re monitoring all the channels for us too,” said Carroll.

There is no actual deadline for when Valera, Carroll, and their team should make a decision. It is only once they consider every variable possible that a closing can be deemed necessary.

“The bottom line comes down to safety. There’s a ton of variables put into it, this is not just some snap decision,” said Carroll.

Although Safety and Security does not have a deadline, the notices are usually sent out either the night before or morning of a cancellation. Given Fordham’s large commuter population, Carroll tries to consider the safety of each individual arriving and leaving campus. For some commuter students, a notice is preferred the night before.

“Fordham should never announce a snow day the morning of,” said Katherine Base FCRH ’14. “It’s really inconvenient for a commuter to wake up, get ready and in the car and get a call from Fordham saying we have a snow day and have to turn around.”

Safety as a priority is a value shared among the Fordham community. However, it cannot be denied that the number of snow days poses a threat to classroom time and may call for makeup days.

“I have a Monday night class that only meets once a week and so far its gotten cancelled twice because of the snow and then once because of the holiday,” said Jill DeSantis, FCRH ’14. “Although a snow day is nice, the thought of possibly making those classes up during the spring is definitely a large concern for me.”

Students are not the only ones impacted by the increasing number of snow days. Professors, too, have to plan for material, class time and exams being missed. Communications professor, Dr. Margot Hardenbergh plans for snow days in spring semester syllabus in case of situations like this.

“I build that into my system, particularly in this semester”, said Hardenbergh of her annual advanced planning.

Unlike elementary and high schools, Fordham does not have a required number of school days to fulfill. In theory, none of the snow days have to be made up. However, if the number continues to grow, the classes are likely to be made up because Fordham’s administration is mindful of its students’ education and tuition.

“You only have ‘x’ amount of classes that you’re taking in a particular subject,” said Carroll. “Our students are paying a lot of money to take those classes in those subjects; I’m very mindful of all that.”

According to Carroll, the administration does not yet know if reading days will be used to makeup for the large number of snow days, as done in the past.

Classes, exams, student affairs and service obligations are just a few of the pieces that make Fordham’s community function. Campus closings most usually mean each of those also being cancelled.

Although some are becoming frustrated with the influx of snow days in recent weeks, Dr. Margaret Andover, associate Psychology professor has chosen to stay positive.

“Like everyone else, I’ve had to deal with train delays and snowy walks home, but most of the snow days we’ve had have helped me avoid commutes that would have been extremely difficult or dangerous,” said Andover.

Regardless of varying opinions on the precipitation, more snow is expected on Thursday and the potential for another snow day does exist.

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