Snow day calls for extra helping hands all around campus

No time off for essential University employees, snow day could even mean extra hours


Ellen Kanzinger

W&L Facilities employees clear the Colonnade in preparation for classes to resume after Winterstorm Jonas. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger, ‘18.

Madeleine Haight

Winter Storm Jonas lived up to its suspected magnitude last week and forced Washington and Lee to cancel classes on Jan. 22. But some employees still needed to report to campus to keep school operations in order.

Many university employees still must work during the storm, even if it means making plans ahead of time to stay on campus and avoid dangerous road conditions.

Dean of Students Sidney Evans is responsible for making sure the university can operate as needed, and for student safety, especially in emergency situations. But Evans cannot walk to campus from her home, she said, and traveling in winter storm conditions is dangerous and unreliable.

“In a situation like this, when I had concerns ahead of time, I made arrangements to stay on campus,” Evans said.

Evans did not return home until late Saturday afternoon. She waited until the roads were clear enough that in the event of an emergency, she would be able to make it to campus.

Because she was on campus, Evans said she was able to fulfill her obligation to those who reported to work on Friday and Saturday.

“We have an emergency management plan and an emergency management team for the university,” Evans said. “And I’m basically the point person for that.”

Other essential employees include the Student Health Center staff, Dining Services, Public Safety, and University Facilities, which is responsible for clearing campus pathways and roads during the storm.

Director of Public Safety Ethan Kipnes said most of his department reported to work during the storm, when classes were cancelled.

“Basically everyone in our department is considered an essential employee,” Kipnes said. “With the exception of those who had a situation at home that made them unable to report to campus, Public Safety had a full staff to tend to the various needs of the university.”

But Public Safety is also responsible for transporting these essential university employees during weather-related closings.

“We have an agreement with Facilities, Health Services, Dining Services, and anybody else who is considered an essential employee,” Kipnes said. “If they live relatively close to campus, and if they have trouble getting here, then we will provide transportation to those employees.”

But transportation is not limited to school employees. Kipnes said Public Safety can transport students too, many of whom live off campus and might not feel comfortable driving in dangerous conditions.

“Another one of the things we do is just monitor the status of things on campus to make sure there aren’t any power outages, heating issues, burst pipes, something like that,” Kipnes said. “We act as an extra set of eyes on campus.”

In the midst of Winter Storm Jonas, the university also released a health advisory warning students about a norovirus outbreak. Evans was responsible for ensuring that the Health Center could function at high capacity, and that dining facilities had enough food.

In case of an emergency, Evans remained on call on Friday and Saturday. In the past, students have had minor, snow-related injuries, or even been sent to the hospital.

“This time we were really fortunate,” Evans said. “We didn’t have a single fall.”

Students and faculty alike appreciated the efforts of the university’s essential staff last week. Alice Bradford, ’18, said she noticed University Facilities hard at work on Friday.

“While school closing sometimes means a day of fun for students, for the facilities staff it means a day of plowing, shoveling, salting and more to make traveling throughout campus safer,” Bradford said. “Their hard work becomes especially apparent during times when students have the day off, and for that I am very appreciative.”