UB cancels classes Tuesday amid winter storm, reopens Wednesday


Theresa Rubi drove to North Campus from her apartment on Minnesota Avenue on Wednesday morning “slipping at every turn.”

“The weather Tuesday was bearable compared to this,” Rubi, a senior biological sciences major, said. “I think school should have closed on Wednesday for the safety of students, professors and staff.”

For years, UB students have been frustrated with the university’s decision to stay open amid harsh winter storms and even started petitions for school to close. On Tuesday, students got their wish. UB canceled classes Tuesday, after over two years of staying open during severe winter storms. The university hasn’t canceled classes for inclement weather since the historic “Snowvember” storm in 2014.

But some students feel the snow was worse on Wednesday and were shocked that the university chose to hold classes. By Tuesday night, UB students were glued to their phones waiting for an alert on whether the university would remain closed on Wednesday.

At 5:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, UB Spokesperson John Della Contrada said the university decided to reopen.

Tuesday’s Winter Storm Stella brought several feet of snow to Western New York and snowfall continued through Wednesday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, 18.4 inches of snow hit Amherst alone. Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency beginning at midnight Tuesday across New York State.

UB sent out an alert to students on Monday night saying all classes on Tuesday were canceled due to severe weather conditions forecasted for the region. The alert also stated that non-essential UB employees should not report to work.

D'Youville College, Erie Community College, Medaille College and SUNY Buffalo State also closed Tuesday due to the storm.

The decision to cancel classes on Tuesday was made based on current and predicted weather conditions, as well as a mandate from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations asking non-essential state employees to not report to work, Della Contrada said.

Della Contrada said the university reopened because weather forecasts predicted the snow would lessen throughout the morning and regional weather and road conditions had become “manageable” for most of Buffalo. He said UB Facilities crews were able to clear campus lots and roadways overnight and worked “diligently” around the clock to make conditions safe and accessible on UB’s campuses.

The State Office of Employee Relations did not issue a warning mandating non-essential state employees to stay home from work on Wednesday, Della Contrada said, which was another reason the university reopened on Wednesday.

Despite school reopening, many students decided to take the day off from classes on Wednesday.

Emily Li, a senior psychology major decided it was too dangerous to try to walk to the nearest bus stop from her Amherst Manor apartment.

“Along with the unplowed sidewalks and icy roads, going to class might have been threatening to my life,” Li said. “UB should have closed school on Wednesday because the weather got worse overnight and it’s not suitable for traveling, especially for those of us who don’t live on campus or far out in Buffalo.”

Students who went to class had to dig their cars out of the snow, drive on slippery roads and struggle to make it to their classes on Wednesday.

“It was disastrous,” said Alvin Samuel, a junior environmental engineering major. “It took me [more than 10] minutes just getting to the bus stop from my apartment in the Villas on Chestnut, and when I got to campus nothing was shoveled properly so I slipped twice.”

By the time Samuel struggled his way through the snow, his class was already over.

“You can't have a mandatory class and expect full attendance on a day like this,” he said. “UB needs to get it together instead of saying they’re ‘monitoring the situation.’ If it's difficult to get out then ya'll should just say that.”

Della Contrada said it’s not fair to say the university never cancels classes.

He said UB has chosen whether or not to cancel classes over the years based on predicted forecasts and sometimes the forecasts were accurate, inaccurate or more concentrated in local areas.

“There are many factors that go into the decision making. The safety of the UB community is always the main concern when making these decisions and we also make accommodations to those who can't travel to campus because of weather conditions,” Della Contrada said.

Della Contrada said the university recognizes some parts of Western New York are more impacted by the storm than others. He said this is why the university provided students and employees with information on what they should do if weather conditions in their area prevent them from travelling to campuses.

He said the sidewalks and roads are being continually plowed and crews are working around parked cars.

Some UB students didn’t let the bad weather stop them from going out.

Rishabh Bhandawat, a first-year industrial engineering graduate student, drove from his apartment in Creekside Village all the way to downtown Buffalo during the storm on Tuesday.

“I was terribly scared because I had never driven in this much snow,” he said. “But I was happy to have the day off and to not have to turn in a single assignment.”

Ashley Inkumsah is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com