White snow, red alertWSU needs a quicker action plan for severe weather conditions
Published 1/20/2012Comments (0)
As the air turns frigid and snow falls in Pullman, students start worrying about getting to class and safety while traveling.
Many students have expressed frustration about the university's apparent lack of concern and lack of action during hazardous weather conditions. Students feel that unless instructors cancel class they will be held accountable for any absences.
“I am kind of miffed because I’m from the west side and all the schools there are closed,” senior kinesiology major Kaitlin Lanting said.
“I came to class today only to find out that my class was cancelled, and after being stuck on the bus for half an hour,” she said.
Of course, the university did close school on Thursday, and it is best not to get greedy, but conditions were extremely poor on Wednesday morning. President Elson S. Floyd should have delayed school for one or two hours. If facility operations has such a hard time with snow piling up faster than they can clear it, actions should be taken.
The university claims to have good intentions in hesitating to close the school.
Darin Watkins, executive director of external communications for WSU, said Tuesday that shutting down campus due to weather conditions had side effects that students might not consider. Since WSU remains a public school it is required to have a certain number of classes per year. Therefore, if the school closes its doors it must return some of the state’s money.
Also, faculty members must use their personal leave time if the school closes campus, Watkins said.
Changes have occurred, though, Watkins said. A new program instituted in the fall titled "Suspended Operations" gives Floyd the power to suspend or delay operations depending on the needs of the university. In the past, faculty members were solely responsible for whether class would be canceled.
This new program also corresponds with behind the scenes changes in administration, Watkins said. Floyd now has representatives from facility operations, Pullman Transit and the WSU Police Department conferring with him on conditions and how they should be handled. Despite these changes, however, the school still fails to act promptly during most hazardous weather conditions.
Watkins said for the first time in WSU history the school started using an alert system to warn students about the incoming storm Tuesday. WSU News also posts red, yellow and green statuses to denote weather conditions and facility operations has snow removal routes posted on their website.
But, when looking at the WSU News Center page, it remains hard to find the color-coding warning system and the information regarding areas cleared of snow is tucked away in the facility operations website (www.facops.wsu.edu) with a heading titled "Plant Services." Despite the misleading name, they have few tips on botanical gardening.
Lanting said she was not aware that facility operations existed or of a website with notices of cleared roadways, but she did get an email alerting her to the incoming weather.
However, on the WSU News Center website, on the top grey bar in the far right corner, in about size four font, is a link titled “WSU Alert.” This link takes students to the latest warnings provided by the school and has a guide to the facility operations snow removal Web page.
Finding these alert systems and helpful information remains a substantial task and requires guidance to some parts. While progress has been made to allow for closures and help students prepare for inclement weather, much work needs to still be done to make this information even more accessible and to better prepare for dangerous weather conditions.