Students ask what it takes for UB to close in light of Tuesday's winter storm
University does not cancel classes despite storm, delays and unplowed lots
Tuesday’s winter storm and nearly a foot of snow has left many students asking a familiar question: What does it take for UB to cancel classes?
The winter storm, which affected the entire Western New York region, left unplowed campus parking lots and streets hard to navigate, Stampede buses delayed and many commuter students stuck inside their driveways with snow burying their cars.
While Daemen College, located in Amherst, canceled classes Tuesday, UB remained open yet again – a pattern that has repeated and frustrated students for years. Other local colleges Canisius and SUNY Buffalo State were already closed due to Presidents’ Day.
Students reported unplowed parking lots on North and South Campus as late as 4 p.m., causing many drivers to dig themselves out of the snow, as well as triple park and block other drivers from exiting. Unplowed sidewalks also made it difficult for students living on campus to get to the academic spine.
Assistant Chief of Police Chris Bartolomei said a few cars did get stuck in the snow but all got out without a tow truck and there were no accidents reported on campus.
Stampede buses ran approximately 15-20 minutes behind schedule because of the road conditions Tuesday, while several commuter students could not leave their driveways due to unplowed streets in their residential and downtown neighborhoods.
Several students said they didn’t even attempt the drive to campus Tuesday simply because they were fearful of getting to an accident in the harsh conditions.
And on Monday, a sprinkler head froze in a South Lake Village apartment causing damage to the apartment floors, walls and carpeting and relocating eight students until maintenance can finish fixing the issue.
A quick Twitter search shows dozens of student complaints about UB holding classes, from the hazardous commute to receiving parking tickets despite the unplowed campus lots. One student questioned whether or not UB cares about its students’ safety.
A tweet from the UB Problems Twitter account Tuesday morning reading “Nothing like risking your life to make that 9 am because your professors don't look out the windows” got 66 retweets.
And Tuesday was nothing new for students.
Students have started petitions in years past for the university to close during winter storms, with a petition last February calling for UB to close when it can not provide adequate busing transportation receiving more than 2,500 signatures. And the university received national attention for delaying cancellation during the historic Snowvember storm in November of 2014.
UB decides whether or not to cancel classes based on input from an advisory group of officials across different departments. A UB spokesperson, who asked to be identified as such, said cancellation decisions take into consideration weather conditions, forecasts, road conditions on and off campus, travel warnings or bans and scheduled academic and extracurricular activities.
There were no travel bans issued in Western New York Tuesday.
Several professors canceled classes on their own - and some students said they would not have attended class even if it had been held.
The university posted an alert on its website at 9:55 a.m. about travel delays, however no emails were sent to students’ buffalo.edu addresses.
The majority of students’ complaints Tuesday were unplowed parking lots on North and South Campus. Although a UB spokesperson said the university’s facility department began plowing the campus roads and lots at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and used all available plows in its fleet, some lots, such as Cooke and Hochstetter, remained unplowed into the afternoon.
The university did not specify by press time how many plows it has.
“UB will continue to remove snow until the lots and roads on campus are clear,” the spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon.
Some felt the weather wasn’t harsh enough to cancel class, but that the university did not adequately plow the parking lots and sidewalks. One student tweeted “UB, its okay that had [sic] school today but you could at least plow the lots and the sidewalks so students can actually get to the buildings.”
Several students reported seeing UB parking attendants writing tickets for cars in unplowed parking lots. This prompted one student to tweet “where is the justice UB?!”
The UB Now Twitter account tweeted that all the university issued just four tickets Tuesday - all for cars that triple parked and blocking others in. The UB Parking and Transportation Twitter account tweeted back at students complaining of parking tickets, telling them that those who received tickets should call the office to “discuss the circumstances.”
A representative from Parking and Transportation was not immediately available to comment further.
“The roads aren’t great and the lines are hard to see in the lots, but the hard part was trying to avoid other cars that are slipping around,” said Shawn Milligan, a junior computer engineering major.
Some commuter students were not able to make it onto campus at all due to roads near their off-campus homes not being plowed. O’Brien Welsh, a senior political science major, said he could not get out of his downtown apartment. Hannah Milligan, a freshman English major, said her usual 10-minute commute to campus took twice as long. Some streets in the Town of Tonawanda were still not plowed by 11:30 a.m.
Bridgette Cerenzuela, a senior political science major, said she didn’t leave her house Tuesday and called off work after seeing snapchats of accidents throughout the morning.
“No accident is worth it,” she said.
UB did add two additional Stampede buses into circulation Monday evening in anticipation of Tuesday’s weather and the extra buses will run until the weather improves. The Parking and Transportation website provides a GPS tracker for students to locate buses and shuttles.
After students complained UB did not adequately provide them information about busying delays last February, UB completed notifications about busing delays into its text alert system.
Tori Roseman contributed reporting to this story.