Mason Has Problems

Social media provides students a way to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions with the Mason community. The twitter handle and hashtag GMU problems has a pulse on the students and the problem they face on campus each day.

Broadside is looking into whether each problem is one specific to Mason and whether any solutions are available.

This week, some students were upset over the decision by the university to not cancel classes on Thursday after overnight snowfall.

According to David Ferris, director of Emergency Preparedness and Response, the delay was the best decision they could have made given the circumstances. He credits a system of preparedness, an accurate assessment of conditions and the experience of the people making the decision, to getting it right.


Assessing the conditions

The University uses sources such as the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to understand the circumstances that drivers will face. Forecasts that predict icy rain in combination with snowfall, a mix that causes dangerously slippery roads and sidewalks, are taken into consideration. With access to road cameras, they are able to assess road conditions before making a decision. When the snow accumulates at night, as it did on Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, it is harder to know what driving will be like because of a lack of moving vehicles on the road.

“[If it snows] in the middle of the night, it’s really tough because nobody’s out there,” Ferris said

Only on campus does the university have the ability to make a personal judgement about conditions.

Other closings and cancellations are taken into account for several reasons. Other school systems in the area are looked at because of the similar area and safety concerns. Also, many faculty’s schedules will change due to family obligations crashed because of other closings.


Working around the academic calendar

Cancellation of classes also creates repercussions to the academic calendar.

“There’s not a lot of margin in the academic calendar to allow for missed classes,” Ferris said. “We will never make a decision that will jeopardize the students’ safety because of the academic calendar but its something that we have to consider.”

In the fall, classes were cancelled Oct. 29 and 30 due to predictions of a large storm. This decision resulted in the cancellation of reading days to make up for classes missed.

“Say if we continuously close on Tuesdays for snow, that puts that particular prime block of classes in a jam,” Ferris said. “And then we run out of reading days and then we start having to offset graduation. It’s a really tough decision to make.”


Was it the right call?

The Mason Police blotter, in which all cases reported to the police are made public online, had no incidents of accidents or damage that was reported on Thursday. Additionally, Director of Parking and Transportation Josh Cantor noted that after spending Thursday morning inspecting the parking lots and garages, he did not find any damage done to any vehicles due to the driving conditions. One of the biggest concerns on Twitter was about commuters traveling through snow-covered neighborhood streets to get to campus.

“In any snow, primary streets get treated before secondary streets,” Cantor said. “While many neighborhoods hadn’t been plowed, we were only talking about an inch of snow. It’s a different story if we had several inches or a foot as we had in past storms over the last few years.”

Cantor also noted that the Federal government, the largest employer in the area, remained open on liberal leave.


What to do next snow

In the event of another snow or any other extreme weather condition, Ferris recommends to allow for more travel time, look for email updates from the university about forecasts and exercise caution.

“It’s upon all of us and individuals and responsible adults make those arrangements with our professor or our supervisor or our family to say, ‘I can’t drive in this. I feel uncomfortable driving in it,’ and make a stand.”