Freezing temps unlikely to close campus, but often cause infrastructure complications

As the extreme cold weather in Geneseo continues, students around campus are asking the same question: Why haven’t classes been cancelled? The answer can be found in Geneseo’s Class Cancellation and Extraordinary Weather Conditions Policy. The policy, which can be found on the Geneseo website, states that, “It is the College’s policy to continue normal hours of operation and maintain a regular work and class schedule for faculty, staff members and students during periods of severe weather as much as possible.”

Vice President of Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio explained that the decision to close campus is not one the administration makes.

“First of all, only the governor can close the campus. The president has the authority to cancel classes, and that decision will be made in consultation with the chief of police and the facilities people,” he said.

He said that, at times, information about extreme weather conditions and warnings about taking precautions come from Albany and are taken into account when deciding to cancel classes.

Bonfiglio explained that, because Geneseo is a residential school, total cancellation of classes will rarely happen.

“There is a list the college has of essential personnel that are supposed to be here regardless of whether or not classes are cancelled. We have written procedures so if classes are cancelled, we have a protocol for opening the College Union, gyms and recreational space to make sure that is open,” he said.

If the campus closes, word of the closing will be on local radio and TV stations and posted on the school website. People will be also be notified via a recorded message on a hotline and using the NY-Alert System.

Remaining open in the cold poses problems, however. Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Planning George Stooks said that keeping the campus open in the winter requires more attention. A main component of campus maintenance involves protection from the weather element – mainly freeze ups in mechanical components.

“[Maintaining campus] requires more vigilance because of the potential damage in the danger of equipment freeze ups and the flooding situation when the equipment thaws,” Stooks said.

According to Stooks, both Sturges and Newton Halls faced problems during the cold spell that hit over winter break. Bonfiglio also said that a pipe unattached in Monroe Hall due to the cold and that steps in the Union have begun to crack, possibly due to the amount of sand, salt and wetness brought into the building.

Stooks also said that, as temperatures drop and demand for energy increases, the price of energy rises by kilowatt-hour. With gas consumption it is slightly different. While more gas is used during the winter to keep buildings warm, the price is more reliable because a contract is purchased and the price of gas is known ahead of time.

With this in mind, Bonfiglio is in process of trying to rewrite the Class Cancellation and Extraordinary Weather Conditions Policy.

According to Bonfiglio, the revision will have separate sections for students and staff members describing in more detail the president’s options for action, such as an early closing or delayed start of class. It will also list how the chief of police may consult with the state, local and county police on road conditions.

“Students need to make decisions in their own best interest,” he said. “If they have concerns they should take the necessary precautions and communicate with faculty members about what they should do in the case of an extreme weather event. Communication and planning beforehand on the part of everyone will help us get through these things.”