Snowed out

Sidewalks often covered in snow

When campus remains open after a snowstorm, sidewalks are often still icy or slushy.

While ice skating is fun, no one expects to be skating down sidewalks on their way to class. When the winter storms hit, it is the responsibility of the school to shovel walkways and parking lots to ensure the safety of the faculty and students. However, the sidewalks at UMBC seem to be covered in snow and ice just as often as they are shoveled after a snowfall, leaving many wondering why campus is open.

Students who have to walk on these slushy staircases and icy walkways are justifiably upset. Zachary Waters, a junior biology major, said that he, “[feels] that it is unacceptable [that campus should open when the sidewalks are icy.]” He believes that until the sidewalks and parking lots are clear, the campus should not be open.

According to Rusty Postlewate, the Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management, the school is making every effort to clear the sidewalks in a timely manner. The school spends about $300,000 every winter on both salt and manual labor for snow removal. Facilities begins salting roads and parking lots while the snow is still falling, but shoveling begins after the snowfall is over.

As a general rule campus will not open when there is still snow on the sidewalks, but unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. “Of course we are making every effort to clear the sidewalks,” Postlewate said, “but it is felt that if the clearing has made sidewalks passable, then an opening is scheduled.” However, a delayed opening is often scheduled with the anticipation that the sidewalks will be cleared before the campus opens.

In regards to the snowfall on the evening of Monday, Feb. 16, Postlewate says, “this past snowfall, we had contractors working to clear the snow from 9 p.m. Monday to 7 p.m. Tuesday. We had anticipated that we would be done with the shoveling before the noon opening, but we fell behind on the residential areas, and so there were not as many cleared sidewalks in the academic areas.”

He said that with the intensive clearing, “by Wednesday morning, all the sidewalks were cleared.” Still, the stairs in between Engineering and ITE were snowy even on Wednesday afternoon. Same could be said of  the sidewalk from the Hilltop parking lot that many commuters have to descend, which was still covered in slush and ice on Thursday.

These examples serve to leave students asking: what if someone fell on that ice? If school were to be closed on the day of a major snow event, it would give the management more time to clear and salt the walkways. And in response to student frustrations, Postlewate says the university is “revising [their] approach to hand shoveling to avoid a similar experience” as of this past week.

Facilities management is doing as much as it can to clear the sidewalks in the time they are given. But if they were given more time, this problem of snowy sidewalks would be mitigated.

Therefore, the administration should re-evaluate their opening policies, and campus should not open until the sidewalks, stairs and parking lots are more reasonably cleared; it would alleviate the problem of icy stairs and snow covered parking lots. This is what students believe, and this is what the school is working towards, but more of an effort needs to be made to make this a reality.