The University of Nevada, Reno, was the only academic institution in session on Friday, March 2, after Reno experienced its first major snowstorms of the season Thursday night, creating problems for students that commuted to class the next morning. Truckee Meadows Community College and schools within the Washoe County School District closed for the day.
Students took to social media to express their discontent of the university’s decision to keep campus open.
“I love having my car lose traction every minute, get stuck in snow AND having cars almost crash into me,” Twitter user @JohnKimUn said. “Thanks for the experience UNR.”
Associate Vice President of Facilities Services at UNR, Sean McGoldrick, said that preparation for a snowstorm usually being one or two days in advance.
“It was actually the day before, Thursday, that we started our preparations,” McGoldrick said. “About 50 folks we had come in around five o’clock in the morning on Friday with another 70 that arrived at seven o’clock.”
McGoldrick says that the facilities services crew will try to pave at least 90 percent of pathways by the time students were to arrive for their classes. Services such as PACKTransit do not change for inclement weather unless there is an official closure of the campus.
“On snow days, tire chains are installed on all PACKTransit buses.” Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Michelle Horton said. “In the event that a campus closure is announced, shuttles continue to operate an additional two-hours after the closure time in an effort to get students and faculty from their classrooms and offices back to their vehicles.”
McGoldrick says what justifies a closed campus will be based upon the expected depth of snowfall and timing of the storm. Around 8:30 p.m., UNR declared that the campus would be closed at 9 p.m. due to the weather conditions of heavy snowfall and unsafe road conditions surrounding the university.
At that time, student services such as campus escort also concluded their services.
“Our main priority is the safety of our riders and staff and though we have chains for all our Dodge Caravan minivans and our Officers are trained to install them, it is paramount to us that staff feel safe and comfortable while doing their job, and we completely trust their assessment and reports when they are out on the road, after all, Campus Escort is a student-run program,” Helena Farrar, Coordinator of Programs and Services at UNR said.
McGoldrick says that while Facilities Services is preparing the school for the snowfall, he is constantly checking the conditions of the roads. Based on the conditions of the road and inches accumulated around four o’clock in the morning, he will decide whether the school needs to be closed or not. However, McGoldrick says the decision to commute to the university comes at the discretion of those traveling.
“We asked students, faculty, and staff, that if you really think that you’ve got tough road conditions trying to get into campus, you should make that judgment and don’t put yourself at risk,” McGoldrick said.
Although safety is the number one priority for the university, students are still not satisfied with the school’s decision to keep the campus open or the closure of services due to weather while the university is still in session.
“[…] even though there were treacherous conditions for travel, I still had to go to classes,” Eric Munoz, a junior at the university said. “Even through preparation and precautions I nearly got into an accident and had to go through unplowed major roads like McCarran. Even when I arrived on campus, the university failed in its promise to plow parking lots.”
A student spoke at public comment at the Associated Students Of The University Of Nevada Senate meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 28, stating that he was left stranded on campus after not realizing that Campus Escort had closed for weather reasons. The student called for a better form of communication between the service and student population.
In response to the student’s concern, Farrar said that campus escorts follow an inclement weather protocol. When the service is unavailable, Campus Escort will post an announcement on the Campus Escort TapRide app and ASUN Facebook and Twitter pages but would take and complete any calls placed until 7:30 p.m. that evening. The service will also notify UNR PD, the Knowledge Center, Wiegand Fitness and the Joe Crowley Student Union staff that they are closing early. Once all rides in the system are completed, Campus Escort will update the Campus Escort phone message to inform riders that they are closed for the night due to weather.
“Weather and road conditions are hard to predict, but we have to anticipate that the later it gets, the colder and icier it will get,” Farrar said. “As far as improving the communication between Campus Escort and students in these cases, we would gladly accept suggestions on how we can better.”
McGoldrick is aware that the decision Facilities and Services make to keep the campus open will not please everyone but insists that if those commuting to school do not feel safe, to avoid traveling to campus.
“I think anything that makes a student feel unsafe or overly cautious when driving to school should warrant a closed campus,” Kellie Rogaczewski a sophomore at the university said. “Most professors cancel class when it gets too bad anyways, because they actually realize that risking your life/others safety while driving is not worth the ten attendance points.”
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.