WHITE OUT: Winter storms causes two consecutive class cancellations

Several students participate in a game of football during Winter Storm Mars, which dropped 6.3 inches of snow on the FSU campus on Monday, Feb. 8. (Photo by Brad Leuchte)

Framingham State administrators cancelled classes for Friday, Feb. 5 and Monday, Feb. 8 due to snowstorms. According to CBS Boston, 12 total inches of snow fell in Framingham during the last two storms.

Executive Vice President Dale Hamel said in an email that deciding to close or delay classes is “a very structured process.”

Hamel and other staff members made several phone calls starting at 5 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5 and decided to cancel classes before 5:30 a.m., which is their “self-imposed deadline … in order to get word out prior to faculty/staff and students beginning their commutes to campus.”

On Sunday afternoon, local forecasters were predicting “significant snow accumulation” starting around 7 a.m. Monday and continuing until 7 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, according to Hamel.

Many districts, including Framingham Public Schools, announced closings late Sunday, according to Hamel. He added administrators conducted several phone and email conversations, and ultimately decided to cancel both day and evening classes for Monday around 11 p.m. Sunday.

He said, “We do not typically make a cancellation call well prior to any snowfall,” but added that since “the forecasts were consistently projecting significant snow accumulation in our service area, and particularly during the morning commute,” they decided to close.

“In the end, the snowfall started later and also abated earlier than forecasted, but I believe that the call was still good as the commuting periods were treacherous,” he said.

FSU cancelled after hearing Gov. Charlie Baker’s plans to close all public universities east of Worcester, according to Hamel.

“As usual, I think that the Facilities crew did an excellent job addressing the situation and keeping the campus as safe as possible,” said Hamel. “It obviously helps the cleanup when the University is closed, as the number of vehicles on campus is significantly reduced. As such, the campus was in very good condition when classes resumed on Tuesday.”

Warren Fairbanks, associate vice president of facilities and capital planning, said the Facilities staff were on campus from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on both Friday and Monday clearing the roads and sidewalks of snow. There are 24 Facilities employees designated to snow removal, he said.

Fairbanks said the Facilities department budgets $22,800 a season for an outside contractor to plow the Maynard, Salem and Maple Parking Lots. In addition, Fairbanks said in an email, “The cost of the wages, gas, sand and salt for a typical storm is approximately $22,000.” The other cost included is overtime for the Facilities employees.

Fairbanks reported there was no damage to the campus. Last year, the damage from Winter Storm Juno was “fairly minimal.”

He added, “[Snow removal] is a pretty repetitive process. You just have to keep an eye on the weather and try to realistically predict how the storm is going to be and what is happening on campus.” He said FSU “tries to be cautious” in deciding to close school.

He said, “It’s not an exact science.”

Ann Justen, dispatch supervisor for the Framingham State University Police Department, sent out an email to students on Monday stating there will be no guest parking and normal parking would resume at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Resident students were instructed to park in their assigned lots “to allow for snow removal and treatment of road surfaces,” according to Justen.

In an email to students on Friday, Feb. 5, Melinda Stoops, dean of students, announced the shuttle shut down service until 1 p.m., when dispatch calls to the parking lots resumed. Normal operations returned to service at 3 p.m.

Monday’s winter weather led to the cancellation of an open forum about freedom of speech, what constitutes hate speech and how to create a more inclusive campus.

According to an email sent out by Dean of Behavioral and Social Sciences Susan Dargan to students on Feb. 4, the forum, “A Conversation on Free Speech: Exploring the Limits,” was to feature discussions facilitated by FSU Professors Emeritus John Ambacher, Joseph Adelman and Ira Silver and Chief Officer of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Sean Huddleston.

The open forum has been rescheduled and will now be held on March 8, according to Huddleston.

Snow impacted FSU’s dining hall operation hours.

On Monday, the dining hall opened at 9 a.m. instead of the scheduled 7:30 a.m.

It was busy all day, according to Dining Supervisor Joyce Hervey. Workers served breakfast until 2:30 p.m., as well as chicken nuggets for lunch.

She added they served roughly 1,100 students, which is slightly fewer than a normal day. She said all staff and facilities workers were provided meals as well.

Sodexo employee Joe Treddin said his commute “worked out perfectly” because he arrived to work just before the snow started falling. By the end of his shift at 3 p.m., it was no longer snowing.

He served more students than usual, and said they hung around for a while.

Tom Blacquier, another Sodexo employee and a Framingham resident, said he encountered no trouble on his commute to work. He arrived at quarter to noon, but on the way home, “Route 9 wasn’t plowed too well,” he said.

Math Professor Michael Krul said the snow “had a major impact on my night class,” as his class meets only once a week.

Sociology Professor Ira Silver said although he enjoyed the snow day, it took some time to determine how best to deal with the missed class day.

Jake Kobierski, a worker for the Ram Tram, said, “[The snowstorms] made the service rough, but it was good that the morning service was cancelled.” He drove the shuttle Monday night and said it “wasn’t that bad” compared to the storms last year.

The Game Room in the McCarthy Center was open both Friday and Monday, according to Jill Hayward, administrative assistant for Student Involvement and Leadership Development.

Junior Dominique Freeman worked Monday and said more people came in than she expected. “I think it’s because it wasn’t snowing too bad, so after eating, they came up,” she said.

Jarid Brogan, a freshman, spent the snow day “watching Disney movies with my friends. We watched ‘Read It and Weep,’ ‘Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior’ and even the live-action Scooby Doo movie.”

Freshman Gerald Meuse said he spent the day with his friends. “I brought my Xbox to a classroom upstairs [in McCarthy] and me and a group of friends just played Xbox the whole day.”

Michey Wagner, a senior, said “I hated the storm, but I enjoyed being stranded at home. I had home-cooked meals for four days straight.”

Freshman Elizabeth Maloney enjoyed the snow days in her pajamas. She said, “I live in Larned, and looking at all the snow falling got me in the mood to watch ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’ So I did!”

Junior Millie Capper said she was excited about the snow days. “We don’t get much snow back home, so for me to have a snow day here was so exciting,” said Capper, who is from London.

“Friday, I desperately wanted to go sledding,” she said, but because of the storm she and her friends opted stayed inside and watch movies instead.

“I might go sledding tomorrow!” she added.