Workers clear snow off the walks outside of Packard Lab during winter storm Juno on Monday, Jan. 25, 2015. The storm did not affect the Lehigh Valley as much as expected so classes were not delayed or canceled. (Anna Simoneau/B&W photo)

Lehigh attempts to avoid closing campus by preparing for winter weather

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Lehigh’s campus is known for having numerous stairs and hills, which often pose difficulties in the winter months when inclement weather becomes an issue.

According to Gary Falasca, director of Facility Services, the university has five levels of winter weather conditions that dictate who reports to work when there is a delayed start, early closing or full closure.

Falasca said in an email that employees are classified into three categories. They are classified as essential services, instructional staff and non-instructional staff. Essential services staff are defined as those needed to deliver services to students and maintain campus safety, security and facilities.

“Provost (Pat Farrell) has the ultimate authority to delay opening, suspend operations or close the university,” Falasca said. “The director of (Facilities Services) advises the Provost on weather conditions and the ability of contractors to manage the removal operation both during and after a winter weather event.”

Falasca said there are four contractors under agreement for snow and ice removal, and each is in charge of a specific area of campus. A company called DDR provides all plowing and salting operations for campus roads and parking lots. Brickman addresses walkways, steps and building entrances on Goodman, Mountaintop and Packer campuses. U.S. Lawns handles walkways, steps and entrances for residence halls. And finally, Fenstys Restoration Services handles walkways, steps and entrances in Sayre Park.

“First and foremost, the personal safety and well-being of our campus community members is of paramount importance and it factors heavily into the decision of whether we keep the university open or close it in adverse weather,” said Janele Kryzwicki, a faculty affairs coordinator from the Office of the Provost, in an email.

Kryzwicki explained how, except in extreme weather conditions, the goal is for Lehigh to remain open for classes and “stay true to our academic mission.”

Kryzwicki said that when warranted, areas of the campus’ many miles of walkways, steps, roadways and acres of parking lots are pre-treated in anticipation of the adverse weather event. When making the decision to open, the Office of the Provost considers the onset time, intensity, duration of a weather situation, condition of travel routes to the university and the condition of campus roads and walkways.

Roslyn Weiss, professor of philosophy, cancelled her Jewish philosophy class on Jan. 27 because of a travel ban in New Jersey. As soon as the travel ban was lifted, Weiss drove to school to teach her afternoon class. Since the morning lecture was cancelled, she plans to have a makeup class.

“I couldn’t drive in even if I wanted to,” Weiss said in an email. “And I did want to.”

Since Weiss lives 90 miles from campus, if the roads are icy or in extremely poor conditions, she will consider cancelling class. She tries to give students 24 hours notice about the possibility that class will be canceled, and will follow up with a final decision about three or four hours before class.

Weiss thinks it would be helpful if the university would make its closing decisions earlier.

“Six a.m. is too late for me to find out classes are cancelled,” Weiss said. “I am on the road much earlier than that, particularly in inclement weather.”

One student, Devon Gallagher, ’16, has a leg injury and is granted faculty and staff parking.

“Lehigh tries to make the campus as accessible as possible during winter months but sometimes fails to take into consideration students who live on the hill when classes aren’t canceled,” Gallagher said in an email.

Gallagher explained that if she did not have her car on campus and was not allowed to park in faculty parking, she would not be able to make it to some of her early morning classes. This is because the paths and stairs leading down to campus from the top of the hill aren’t cleared before she makes her way down.

“I know this is a major concern of some of my peers, too,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher understands that it is a lot of work to clear a campus of snow and ice.

“Lehigh tries extremely hard to keep up with the weather, but sometimes I think the cancelation of early morning classes should be taken into a little more consideration when not all pathways and stairs have yet been cleared.”

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