A plethora of factors play into cancellations

During the snowy winter months, while Northern Kentucky University faculty and students are sleeping or enjoying some late night television, the campus is being prepared for the daily grind.

The snow is cleared, the ice is melted and buckets of salt are strewn about the campus before anyone shows up for class. How does all of this happen? It isn’t the doing of a magical team of elves. This is the work of the Facilities Management grounds crew.

The materials used to clear the snow and melt the ice, not including the heavy equipment, cost around $100,000 a year, according to Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Larry Blake. Labor costs tack on another $31,000 to the varying yearly costs.

The ground crew’s day begins at 2 a.m. to ensure people can navigate the campus safely. While the men of the crew can be seen around campus, they are somewhat unknown to the student body at large.

Not only are the people who clear NKU’s roads and parking lots unknown, but the procedures that keep the university safe during the winter are often unknown to students as well.

One of the most common procedures that keeps students and faculty safe is class cancellations. Careful consideration by multiple people goes into making the decision.
“The biggest communication is involved in the closure process. NKU’s Department of Public Safety gets road conditions, information from the highway departments to let them know what the conditions are in their communities. Because getting you to campus is just as important as having the campus ready when you get here,” Blake said.
In regards to when classes are cancelled, “there isn’t a set time period,” according to NKU Director of marketing and communications Chris Cole.
The chief of police, facilities management and a group of university officials try to close the campus as soon as possible, but sometimes making that decision relies on the conditions at the time and the future forecast. “If its going to be a night where we are anticipating some snow fall or ice, myself or a dispatcher will on the phone with facilities and kind of gauge how the roads are,” Police Chief Jason Willis said.

There are varying factors that play into a cancellation. “There’s not one factor that goes into that decision,” Cole said.

The road conditions are surveyed, and are a concern for everyone, but one factor overlooked by students are the parking lots. When snow falls on the lots and then said snow is plowed up into mounds, if those mounds are too big and take up too many spots, a cancellation is made. Then other obvious factors are taken into consideration, such as snow emergencies in the different cities around NKU and what time the snow falls.

Timing is the hardest challenge faced by facilities management. “Snow storms aren’t predictable. They [weathermen] say they are coming and it’s going to snow a couple of inches and then it drops five or six on you instantly,” Blake said.

Above all else, consideration of academics is the key factor in keeping the campus open or closed. If the number of cancelled days conflicts with tuition rates being paid, a cancellation is reconsidered.

“It’s a delicate balance, but I think we do everything we can to ensure that when we can be open safely and people can get here,” said Cole.