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Boston University: A Massive Snowstorm Failure

In my nearly four years at Boston University I have never seen the University Administration issue an early dismissal.  Perhaps this has something to do with paying staff a full day for half a day of work?

BU Snow Fail

The Nor’ Easter affecting New England this Thursday immobilized the Boston area and created extreme road conditions throughout the Greater Boston Area. Closing a Business or a University in inclement weather is never an easy decision, but it is a decision, that when made, should err on the side of caution.

Boston is in New England.  And as many love to point out, New England is prone to snow.  Many expect that New Englanders are used to snow storms and fully capable of driving in them.  However the Thursday afternoon Nor’ Easter that moved through the area was unique for several reasons;

  1. The Rain/Snow/Ice Line was right in the Boston Area, this means that snow totals are unpredictable and that any frozen precipitation will likely turn to ice or slush.  As opposed to a straight snowstorm, these conditions are extremely difficult to clean up and result in treacherous travel.
  2. The storm came with high winds and during the bulk of Thursday classes meaning that thousands of students, faculty, and administrators were commuting into class.  This presents difficulties to city and university facilities workers as it is more difficult to clear walkways and roads with thousands of people walking on them and hundreds of cars driving through rush-hour traffic.
  3. Snow rates were so intense that roads quickly went from being wet to icy and impassable.

Moreover, BU failed in its communication regarding the storm, choosing to primarily disseminate information over BU Today.  Like other students, I did not receive a single emergency email about the weather.  The BU today article announcing the continuing of a normal campus schedule (http://www.bu.edu/today/2014/bu-to-follow-normal-schedule-on-thursday/#comments) listed just a dozen comments by 9 am this morning.  By 4pm there were over 140 mostly furious comments.

Many were commuters demanding a school cancellation, or at the least a suspension of evening classes that are characterized by a large volume of non-traditional and commuting students.

BU is not just made up of students worried about getting to class safely (which is a valid concern), but there are MANY faculty and staff position (outside of professors) who commute into work, like myself. Every time BU does not close in this weather, I have to decide whether to risk my safety and commute in, or use a vacation day. I am now out of vacation days. BU should really consider its entire population before deciding not to close – and should provide some option to those staff who commute so that we do not have to waste our hard earned vacation days just so we can stay safe in this weather. I passed MANY accidents on my way to work this morning. I could easily have been one of them.  –Anonymous Poster

 

Other commentators raged against BU’s statement that they would monitor the conditions throughout the day;

 

Does any with power at BU even read this? Did management go to sleep after making it’s tough decision this morning? I personally would like more information about the reasons why school is closed today, what factors came into play? When did the danger to student’s safety considered not great enough to close school for a day, or even half a day? I’d rather they cancel classes but I’d be happier if they could at least explain themselves. –Anonymous

I hope the administrators can see through their window how bad it is getting. It is not safe for my child to drive to or from school for an afternoon class. –Concerned Parent

Professors, students, and parents all expressed their dismay and the lack of information from the University definitely did not help.  The only University official to address comments, other than the BU Today staff, was a representative from Disabilities Services responding to a student’s comment that their disability rendered them unable to get to their class this morning.

The BU Bus reportedly hit into a parked car and in separate incident was stuck in the snow on Buick Street. The MBTA also experienced delays, and a 57 bus slid into two parked cars in Packard’s Corner.  As comments about such events around campus increased, it seemed unbelievable that BU would so brazenly disregard the frustration from community members.

With so many commuters, and faculty/staff, it would seem prudent to send folks home early to allow the roads and walkways to be cleared.  Clearly this did not seem like the logical choice to Boston University.  But perhaps next time they can do better job to communicate to their stakeholders and make a responsible decision.

As of this posting Harvard, Northeastern, Bentley, and Babson have all cancelled evening classes.

BU; “We’ll let you know.”

Disclaimer:  This is not an attack on BU, rather I love my University.  Severe Weather just happens to be an area where administrative actions, communication, and responsiveness can, and should, improve.

The awning outside of Student Village 2 collapsed this evening under the weight of heavy snow.

The awning outside of Student Village 2 collapsed this evening under the weight of heavy snow.

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