An Icy Mess

A Response to Administration Decisions During the Feb. 5 Snow Storm

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I was going to write an editorial on why it made sense to keep Dickinson open during snow events like the one on Monday, February 3rd. Then there was the ice storm on Wednesday, February 5th. Many professors and students made an admirable effort to attend classes while Facilities did the best they could considering the storm; however, it was inexcusable for administrators to have nonessential personnel (a group that includes people like faculty and administrators but not departments like Dining Services, DPS, and Facilities) show up during the dangerous ice storm on Wednesday, February 5th.

How dangerous was it? It was so dangerous that one side of steps of the HUB’s College Street entrance was blocked off, presumably due to ice. Travel for professors who had to drive was even worse, because there were incidents like the fatal one just ten miles down the road from Carlisle on the Pennsylvania Turnpike . These problems, both inside and outside of campus, demonstrated the risk to public safety which existed that day. Since the idea should be to maximize public safety and minimize risk, the idea to keep a “business as usual” attitude in such conditions was ill-advised.

However, some may argue that I am greatly exaggerating the risk that was involved, especially since many students and professors live within walking distance of their classes. While it is true that nearly all students and many faculty members live on or near campus, there are also many professors who do not live within walking distance. However, even for those on or near campus, conditions were so dangerous that numerous students fell on ice. Between those two factors, there is no such thing as exaggerating risk.

However, the administration is not really in the territory to say that I am exaggerating public safety risk. This was because administrators admitted to perilous conditions in the area by not opening their offices until noon. I understand that they do this at least in part because some administrators do not live within walking distance of campus. However, some professors do not live within walking distance of campus, yet they are not given the same leeway to avoid risky travel without hesitation. Since the leeway is there for administrators but not professors, there is a double standard.

Administrators might argue that it is an administrative inconvenience to close the college for everyone except essential personnel. If that is the best argument they can come up with for keeping the college open, shame on them for valuing administrative convenience over the safety of students, faculty, and staff. This sort of logic might be penny-wise for administration, but it is pound-foolish from a public safety standpoint.

Maybe the administration had some other reason to keep classes going on the 5th. However, I do not see any reason available to me at the moment. If administrators at Dickinson have some other argument to offer for keeping classes open, I would welcome a response. Until then, there is only one way to describe Dickinson’s administration: smart with books but not public safety.