While it was hectic for some and smooth for others, the wintry conditions of Thursday, February 13th had more than snow up in the air.
“It felt like The Day After Tomorrow,” said CCNY student Joseph Chui, describing his journey to campus. “I was literally walking with my head down and my hood over, trying not to get pelted by sleet in my face.”
NYC public schools chancellor Carmen Farina and Mayor de Blasio announced that schools would remain open, and CUNY followed suit. According to Anthony Laperuta, Lieutenant for Public Safety, the CUNY system follows the decision of the Mayor and the New York City public school system when it comes to weather-related closures. But the Mayor decided to cancel classes at 2:30 p.m.
“It was very poorly handled,” said CCNY student Carlos Reyes. He recalled a similar snow day last spring when afternoon classes were cancelled due to the snow. “I felt like they were going to cancel, too,” said Reyes.
Mayor de Blasio, along with the New York City Board of educations, decided to keep schools open for reasons including childcare concerns and school meal provisions. While CUNYs do not offer free breakfast and lunch – they stayed open as part of the public school system.
“The trains were running. We had people on campus,” Laperuta said about the events of the morning and why the school had not closed. He added that ultimately the CCNY president does have autonomy when closing the campus, but that pertains to certain circumstances.
Not all students opted to brave the weather conditions of Thursday’s storm. Autumn Clark, a student who resides in lower Brooklyn near Coney Island, decided it was best to stay home.
“Since it’s by the water, the storm hit harder that it did in other areas. If it was a foot of snow years ago they wouldn’t have cancelled. But today’s city is modern and fragile.” Said Clark
After considering the weather that day, Shawn Matthew, student, too remained at home.
“I noticed there were quite a few locations that had a lack of shoveling, making it quite difficult to travel during the night,” said Matthew, adding that his professors cancelled.
Hot meals for children were a legitimate concern for many parents in the city and it was optional to send children to school. However, Matthew says, “It looked pretty bad outside. I refused to experience it myself.”
Many of the students at CCNY wished the school would be operate on its own because “City College has its own environment to consider.”
After the decision to remain open was made, both the president’s office and public safety said notification was relayed to all students, faculty and staff via email, and the CUNY Alert system issued a text to cell phone users registered with the program.
“With the past few snow storms, our school didn’t have a single snow day with the exception of today,” said student Andrew Chao. “When I woke up, it was all white, I couldn’t see a thing, and that’s how you can tell it was dangerous.”
That separation in policy between NYC schools and CUNY last Thursday resonated with students at CCNY.
“College is a lot further distance to go,” said student Josh Koo. “At the very least, they should’ve closed earlier.”
Cherno Snow, another student who made it in that day, said he regretted traveling to school to find that the campus would be closed for his afternoon classes.
“There was a lot of storm, the trains took long, the roads were hard to drive and there are risks that coincide with that,” said Snow.
Another student, Alexander Chait, was ill the day of the storm but after seeing the school had decided not to close, headed in for his normal classes despite the weather. He said it was, “something you need to know, before you go through the effort of getting here.”
“CUNY shouldn’t base its decisions on a non-comparable school system,” said Alexander Chait, student. “It’s basically throwing grade school with college.”
Alyssa Yankwitt, Adjunct Lecturer in English, decided to hold classes since CCNY was open and transportation was running. For her early class, four students were in attendance while her other students emailed asking if class was still in session or informed her that they were not able to attend.
“Honestly, that was four more than I expected,” she said.
For CUNY to follow suit with the Mayor and NYC public schools regarding closing for severe weather, she too felt the decision should be separate.
“CCNY is a commuter school,” said Yankwitt. “It is unfair to expect students from certain locations to be asked to come in during extreme weather.”
CUNY Law School, however, states on their website that in the event of adverse weather, students are notified no later than 7:30a.m. on the morning of possible closures.
Deidra Hill, Vice President for Communications and Marketing, said students typically receive notifications via email, website updates, text messages and news website communications if CCNY is closed as early as 5 a.m. through emails, updates on the website, texts and news website communications.
“Due to the changing weather forecast of Feb. 13, 2014, City College cancelled all classes that started at 2:30 p.m. or later,” said Hill. “The functionality of mass transit, our ability to remove snow and treat icy conditions on campus, current weather forecast, and consultation with CUNY officials” are all aspects under review before closure, she said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency that day for the mid-Hudson region, New York City and Long Island areas in response to the hourly changes in weather.
“New Yorkers should stay off the roads and remain in their homes until the worst of the storm has passed,” he said.
The warning concerned CCNY Professor Jennifer Lutton, who had faculty commuting from outer borough areas such as Westchester County, Long Island and New Jersey. She understood that closing would cause a need for make-up classes, but not everyone travels from close by.
“When you have classes that are under-attended or you have faculty that can’t get in because of the snow, it doesn’t make sense to close. People are leaving early. It’s confusion,” said Lutton.
“The Chancellor’s statement, ‘it’s a beautiful day out there,’” recalled Joseph Chiu about the news that day. “Well of course it is – if you’re inside.”