During the winter season, just walking across the Colgate campus becomes a spectator sport. Some students even go so far as to lounge in the fifth floor vestibule of the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, cheering when the unfortunate and unsuspecting walker slips down the hill to Wesson Terrace. Even leaving the dorm or heading to class poses a challenge to the typical student. Sometimes the paths traversing the quad are covered in packed snow, but the slick ice is always
lying in wait for its next victim.
Often inappropriate footwear or the distraction of cell phones is to blame for one’s downfall on the ice. Some students, however, complain that the unsatisfactory plowing on campus is to blame for their clumsiness.
“They put much more of an effort into plowing certain areas of campus than others,” Outdoor Education staff member first-year Greta Hutchinson said. “Areas by the gym and Outdoor Education Base Camp often get neglected, so many OE kids eat it right by Cutten.”
There are other oft-complained about areas on campus.
“The pathway beneath Drake is never plowed. It is rare to get back to Bryan Complex with out wiping out,” Sophomore Regan Corr said.
That the student body views the campus’s plowing as insufficient is surprising, considering Buildings and Grounds has eight plow trucks and four broom/snow blower tractor units to clear the paths. B&G employs workers to operate these machines from 4 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, as well as 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. over the weekend. In the event of big snowstorms, even more people can be called in to plow the paths.
Associate Director of the Physical Plant (Grounds) Mike Jasper was on campus during last week’s blizzard-like conditions.
“I would say people do need to realize this is central New York and we are going to have to live with significant snowfall events,” Jasper said in response to these complaints.” Roads and walks will not always be bare and clear all the time no matter how much effort is exerted.”
Jasper suggests that the students, staff, and faculty at Colgate “take the conditions into account when traveling, whether that be in a vehicle or on foot.” For those driving up and down the hill, Jasper suggests reducing driving speed and planning for extra travel time. For those who walk, Jasper not surprisingly recommends wearing the proper footwear to “avoid slips and falls.”
Despite Buildings and Grounds’ obvious effort to clear the walkways, some students still take issue with the plowing on campus, especially in the parking lots. First-year Alexandra Maltz parks her car in the lot adjacent to Reid Athletic Center and finds it difficult to get her car out of its space after a big snowstorm.
“I would say that Buildings and Grounds should plow sooner when it snows so that the cars don’t get stuck, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of the barrier that the plow creates behind the cars,” Maltz said. “It’s so frustrating because I can never make it over that snow bank in my small car.”
According to Jasper, this barrier is technically referred to as the “wind row.”
“When you plow a parking lot, the ideal situation is to have an empty lot and to plow everything right off,” he said. “However, when there are vehicles in the lot, the wind row of snow can only go up to those vehicles and there is nothing else you can do about it until vehicles are moved. Our lots are extremely small and difficult to maneuver around, even in the smaller plow trucks.”
In spite of the students’ complaints, Jasper cited several improvements to campus transportation that have been initiated in recent years. The Colgate Cruiser is a helpful alternative during bad weather, so that students don’t have to bring their cars up the hill in treacherous conditions. Furthermore, newer buildings like the Ho Science Center, Case Library, and Persson Hall have incorporated heated steps and walkways into their design. Finally, Buildings and Grounds has created additional work shifts and expanded existing ones, so that workers can respond immediately if necessary. These workers have many other responsibilities on campus, but there are still very few hours not covered by the plows.
Although complaints sometimes follow especially painful slips on the campus walkways, there are many students who have noted the improvements that Colgate has made and who appreciate the seemingly constant effort of the Buildings and Grounds plows.
“I think the plows do a good job of clearing the pathways for us,” first-year Meg Hanley said. “It’s probably really difficult to clear the walks completely when you get as much snow as we do.”
Still, some express concern for the safety of the student body.
“The plowing on campus needs to drastically improve because icy steep walkways are very dangerous,” Corr said. “I personally know 3 people who have broken bones from falling on unplowed icy pathways.”