Snow, ice causes student concerns

Matt Silva

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has a reputation among its students for being an institution that rarely closes due to snow, ice or extreme cold. This has the potential of making a student’s journey to class dangerous and unnerving. UWO Vice Chancellor Jamie Ceman said the University won’t take any responsibility if a student falls and injures him or herself badly. “The judgment about whether to travel to campus rests with the individual,” Ceman said. “If students and employees feel it is unsafe, they are advised not to attempt the trip.” Division Business Analyst Manager in Administrative Services Jamie Schwister said the only people the University covers, if an ice or snow related incident happens, are the employees. “UW Oshkosh as state agency has liability insurance that only covers employees if they are negligent in performing their duties,” Schwister said. “ A liability claim can only arise if an injury/damage was caused as result of an employee’s negligence. In inclement weather, the only reason a liability claim would be accepted or valid is if the university’s employees responsible for clearing snow are not performing their duties to their capacity.” UWO junior Nathan Bjorkman said the process of getting to class in extreme winter weather can be grueling. “I have to think about what to wear, especially footwear, because there are some slippery areas on campus and I can’t afford to be late or get hurt,” Bjorkman said. “We could use some more salt. Oshkosh will rarely close so I have to do what’s necessary to make it to class.” Ceman said a student will have to contact the professors directly to inform them about any inconvenience they may run into. “The responsibility lies with the student to work with their professors regarding absences if they feel their safety is at risk,” Ceman said. Schwister said the University works hard to keep a safe and clean campus for its students and faculty. “Our facilities department tries its utmost to clean up snow during and after a snowstorm, but with a campus our size, they might get to some areas later than the others,” Schwister said. Schwister said students need to use their judgment when walking to class in the snow. “It is the responsibility of individuals on campus to practice safety, wear appropriate snow gear, choose a path where snow has been cleared, walk slowly and carefully through icy patches,” Schwister said. Mack said UWO typically has around 12 employees working on the sidewalks and parking lots, including three to seven student who help with snow removal after every storm. Mack said currently the grounds department is down four employees which interferes with snow and ice from some areas of campus. “This year, because of the amount of a couple snow falls and the fact that my department is currently down four positions due to two retirements and two other openings; we called on facilities management to help out,” Mack said. Mack said depending on the predicted amount of snowfall UWO gets, the staff will start snow and ice removal anywhere from midnight to 4a.m. She said for unpredicted snowfalls the staff is contacted at night with the amount of snowfall received and the next steps necessary for the snow removal. “I use weather underground and the National Weather Service to start things out,” Mack said. “If snow is predicted and is going to be substantial then I look to the University Police for their updates on when it will start and the predicted amounts. For the unexpected stuff they will call me during the night and let me know how much is on the ground. Anything over an inch we head in for.” According to Mack there are certain areas that have priority to be cleared of snow. “Sidewalks and a designated handicap route are top priority,” Mack said. “The lowest priority areas are the lots where students park long term. With that being said we typically have everything plowed by at least 9 a.m.” Mack said the grounds department receives help from the custodial staff during snowstorms. “Entrances to all buildings are taken care of by custodial staff and we are very appreciative of all the support they provide,” Mack said.