After days of warmer-than-seasonal weather, temperatures plummeted in the early hours of Tuesday and have remained low all week. Trinity’s faculty, staff and students buckled down as a blast of cold air, freezing rain and snow closed campus and caused the enactment of emergency protocols.
The university prioritizes safety when deciding to close campus, and in this instance, the crisis management team began the discussion of doing so Sunday afternoon.
“The crisis management team is made up of a cross-section of staff and faculty from the university who get together throughout the year to plan for crisis situations that would interrupt the normal operations of the University,” said Sharon Jones Schweitzer, assistant vice president for university communications.
However, Schweitzer explained that because there are many residential students, the university decided to ask Mabee workers to come to campus.
Charles Robles, food service director of Aramark, explained that staff members were given a choice on whether to come to work or not.
“Ultimately, we leave it up to the staff member to determine whether they can safely come to work or not. We ask for a group of volunteers who can come early, and make accommodations to ensure our staff stays safe.”
In this incident, Mabee workers came in at 4 a.m in order to be off the road before the worst of the precipitation began. Previously, employees have slept in Mabee overnight in order to open on time the following morning.
TUPD was also operating to keep students safe. Emergency management coordinator Ivan Pendergast said only essential personnel were working, but that students were kept safe. TUPD was staffed at normal levels, but shift hours were changed.
“We never stop patrolling, even when the campus is closed. We actually put more focus on safety conditions on lower campus than we previously had. We adjusted shift hours to ensure that there was always somebody on campus, and nobody had to commute in unsafe conditions,” Pendergast said. “Ultimately, we err on the side of caution, because I would prefer to be chastised for being too safe than criticized for being responsible for someone getting hurt.”
One thing that many students might not think about is how the weather affects faculty and staff who commute from other sides of the city.
“I think that some of my colleagues without children might not realize that professors with kids encounter challenges during closing scenarios as well,” said Kelly Grey Carlisle, professor of English. “I sympathize with them in regards to their commute.”
Carlisle lives within 30 minutes of the university, but recognizes that others might have longer commutes. Carlisle also recognizes the situation that some of her non-tenured colleagues might be put in if the university does not cancel classes, but they are unable to come to work.
“I think that we should emphasize to non-tenured professors that this doesn’t factor into their ability to get tenure,” Carlisle said.
Ultimately, she was relieved to hear that the University had decided to cancel classes in the interest of safety for all.
TUPD is encouraging all students to sign up for TrinAlert, the emergency notification system for the campus community. Detailed instructions for receiving those alerts can be found on the ITS website.