This winter DeSales has been hit with the most snow the area has seen in about 20 years. As of now, we are only six to eight inches away from breaking the DeSales University record. For many students, the amount of snow days there have been is astonishing because DeSales is known for almost never closing school.
Dennis Rasley, emergency services specialist, and Bob Snyder, vice president for administration and finance, are the two people responsible for making the call about whether the university is open or closed during inclement weather.
“When making the decision about closing the university or not, we have to look at whether the roads are going to be safe enough for the professors and commuters,” said Rasley. “On the other hand, we have to make sure that the campus is safe for the residents.” In order to do this, Rasley is almost constantly watching the news and getting updates from traffic scanners.
“When we are looking to cancel classes, our first phone call is to the facilities director to see how the conditions are on campus,” said Rasley. “I have connection to the traffic scanner and, from there, I can usually determine the condition of the roads. When all of those aspects come into affect, I am able to make the call.”
When the weather channels predict an upcoming storm, like the one on February 13, Rasley likes to make a decision about whether the university will be open or not the night before so that they can give students and professors plenty of time to prepare for what is coming.
“For any big storm that they are calling for, we usually consider closing the night before,’” said Rasley. “When they were calling for 8 inches or more, we knew that we’d have to close the school down.”
Once the snow starts sticking on the ground, it is the job of the facilities department to clear the roads and sidewalks to keep the campus safe.
“We know that students need to get to class, and even though they might want to have a snow day, we try to keep the school open so that you don’t miss the class that you are paying for,” said Jim Molchany, director of facilities. “We can’t control what the weather is doing, but for the student’s sake, we try our hardest to keep the campus as clear as possible.”
Molchany is in charge of all snow operations on campus. He schedules the men who help with snow removal and gives updates for how the conditions are on campus. Molchany is also in charge of ordering all the salt and shovels, making sure that equipment is functioning and that there is enough diesel to run everything.
“When a storm happens, we always have a plan to make sure the school stays open,” said Molchany. “Sometimes that plan doesn’t work out because of equipment breaking and changes in the weather.”
When there is a storm, a group of 20 men work around the clock to make sure that the emergency routes are clearforemergencyvehicles and that the walking paths are cleared for residents.
Next time a major storm hits, snow route maps provided by the facilities department will be placed in each building. There will be two maps— one with routes to walk on when the college is open and one for when it is closed. This will show the students where the facilities’ priorities are and hopefully lessens the confusion about the routes they should take.
So far this year, DeSales has gotten about 60 inches of snow. The facilities department has used 200 tons of road salt and 40 tons of sidewalk salt.
“As far as our snow budget goes, we are two to three times over our original budget and we aren’t even close to being done with the winter,” said Molchany. “We have enough salt for a couple more storms, and I am hoping that we can get more, but we are on a waiting list right now, just like everyone else in the area.”
After the storm is over and the main sidewalks and roads are treated, Rasley goes out on foot and does a “slips, trips and falls assessment.”
“I walk through campus and do a full safety audit to make sure that everything is safe and ice-free,” said Rasley. “Then I look to make sure that the callboxes and the fire exits are accessible. I also look to make sure that the piles of snow by the intersections are clear enough for people to see over them. As I walk through and notice that things are not as clear as they need to be, I make a list and give that list to facilities and they get on it right away.”
Sophomore Samantha Harner praised the facilities team for the job they have done.
“I think the facilities team has really done a great job with keeping up with the amount of work there is to do on campus,” said Harner. “There will be times when I walk to class and there is an icy sidewalk, but by the time I get out, it is already salted and completely safe to walk on.”
For most of the residents on campus, dealing with their cars is the worst aspect of the snow. “Our facilities staff has worked very hard through this winter,” says junior Konstantine Goulas. “The height parking lots were definitely hard to navigate through during this last storm. After it snows, we can’t see the lines for the parking spots and sometimes the spots are taken by the people who come to sled at DeSales. However, overall, the men from the facilities department are working hard and doing the best they can with all of the snow we’ve gotten.”
The facilities department always has the residents in mind and when it snows, they always want to help them get their cars out as soon as possible.
“We understand that even when the campus is closed, students might have to get home or go to work,” said Molchany. “If there is a road that is not clear or you are having trouble getting your car out, just let us know and we will try to help you.”
The commuters of DeSales have also had a hard time with the extreme weather. Deciding whether their commute is safe enough is a tough call to make when the university is open.
“I commute from Allentown,” said first-year student Sophia Villatoro. “It has been really hard to get in sometimes, and I don’t go to class because I don’t think my car can handle the snow and ice. “
Many times the decision is made easy for the commuter students because the professors will make the call and cancel their class if their commute is too dangerous.
“After the last big snow storm, we wanted to clear out the parking lots for the students as quickly as possible just in case they have internships or something to get to,” said Molchany. “We cleared Conmy, Tocik and DeChantal first and asked them to move their cars to the library or Labuda so that we could clear their lots. Unfortunately, we were not able to get to the other building’s parking lots because, right after that storm, we were hit with another. We wanted to get to the Heights, Welsh, Aviat and Donahue, but with the snow that came the next day, there just wasn’t enough time.”
Professors are struggling to make up time and work due to the large amount of cancellations that have happened so far this semester. Mrs. Patricia Fried, a chemistry professor, had to adjust her teaching schedule after all the snowstorms and several cancellations.
“In terms of the snow days and our class, I have reworked both the class and lab syllabus to try to fit in as much information as possible, but some material has to be cut and the tests will be reworked to reflect that change,” said Fried. “Everyone at DSU is trying to make the best of a very harsh winter, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to cover the same amount of material in most courses when there have already been two days of class cancelled and numerous late starts. Hopefully students understand that the faculty is aware of the time issues and will do everything to make sure that the semester goes as smoothly as possible.”
As professors make adjustments to their schedules, students have had to deal with the revisions patiently and make the most of the time off.
“I don’t even want to here that ‘S’ word anymore,” said Goulas. “The snow and snow days have messed up a lot of class schedules. Many tests were moved and pushed back, resulting in more than three tests in one day. It has put an extra burden on all of us, and I personally didn’t feel having the snow days has allowed us to study more; it seemed to be more of
an inconvenience because the storms were happening around midterm time.”
In the fall of 2012, DeSales was hit by Superstorm Sandy, which resulted in the campus losing power for about a week and the university shutting down for seven class days. The professors were able to make up the lost time with optional Saturday classes.
“The cancellations will not have any effect on the academic year,” said dean of undergraduate studies, Dr. Blumenstein. “It is up to the professors to make up for lost time and to handle each of their classes. We are not going to change dates or extend the school week. We didn’t think that the Saturday classes were helpful during Sandy last year so now it is completely up to the professors.”
For Rasley, Molchany and their teams, the chaos never seems to end. They are constantly watching the weather and looking out for the safety and well being of those that attend DeSales University and work there.
“We have a plan,” said Molchany. “We just ask that the students be patient and let us do our job because we are looking out for them whether they live on campus or off campus. We have each of them in mind as we do what we do and we want to help them out as much as possible.”
Molchany asks that if anyone has a problem with getting their car out, sees an icy sidewalk or needs salt or shovels at their dorm, please call ext. 2241.
This story was originally published in the February 26 issue of The DeSales Minstrel.
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