Heavy Snows, No “Snow Day”

Snowy days are no day off at Ferris

by Published: Mar 6, 2013

Cleaning Up: Ferris student employees work to clean off sidewalks and salt them after a snowstorm. Photos By: Eric Trandel | Photographer

Cleaning Up: Ferris stu­dent employ­ees work to clean off side­walks and salt them after a snow­storm. Photos By: Eric Trandel | Photographer

Recent win­ter storms have incon­ve­nienced the Ferris State University com­muter demo­graphic and chal­lenged the cam­pus snow removal team.

Over 6,000 Ferris stu­dents are com­muters. There are also many fac­ulty, staff and admin­is­tra­tion mem­bers who com­mute from sur­round­ing areas like Grand Rapids, Cadillac and Reed City.

Ferris polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor Christine Bailey is a case in point. She trav­els from Flint to Big Rapids and back twice per week.

“On those days, I drive between five and eight hours round-trip, all depend­ing on the weather,” Bailey said. She said there are often sig­nif­i­cant weather dif­fer­ences between the var­i­ous coun­ties she trav­els through.

“I have had to can­cel class before,” Bailey said. “But I also have been get­ting more emails from stu­dents, many from the snow-belt areas like Newaygo and White Cloud, who are unable to make it to class due to the weather.”

Whatever chal­lenges beset com­muters on the road, on cam­pus a whole new world awaits. The grounds, main­te­nance and snow removal team are con­stantly at work within this world, striv­ing to effec­tively man­age the con­se­quences of heavy snow and ice on cam­pus roads, park­ing lots and walkways.

Will Gasper, Ferris’ man­ager of grounds, roads and walk­ways, said pro­mot­ing safety is one of his pri­mary con­cerns dur­ing the win­ter months.

“We under­stand that it is usu­ally harder to get here than it is to get around once you’re here,” Gasper, who remem­bers only a hand­ful of bona-fide snow days dur­ing his 23 years with Ferris, said. “So we have to make sure every­one can get around safely, espe­cially those with phys­i­cal handicaps.”

Ferris stu­dent Tina Van Antwerp uses a man­ual wheel­chair and also com­mutes from Stanwood. She said stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties can fill out a form which ensures snow removal at a spe­cific place and time Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Overall, it works well,” Van Antwerp said. “However, I do have a late class on Monday and Wednesday nights from 6 to 7:40 p.m. If we get bad weather dur­ing that time, all bets are off.”

Van Antwerp cites the icy slope in the park­ing lot by Williams Auditorium as “prac­ti­cally impos­si­ble” to maneu­ver in her wheelchair.

Working to ensure that stu­dents like Van Antwerp have a pass­able route to class, a 12-member snow removal team is avail­able Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Depending on the weather, the crew is some­times required to come in early or stay late.

As much as 300 tons of road salt are used annu­ally through­out the 880-acre cam­pus which con­tains over 23 miles of side­walks and four miles of roads.

Gasper and Jim White, Ferris’ grounds super­vi­sor, have been in a con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion loop with Ferris admin­is­tra­tors and the Department of Public Safety to address con­cerns spurred by win­ter storm “Q.” They pay atten­tion to weather con­di­tions in nearby states, such as Wisconsin, to help pre­dict local weather.

Under the most severe cir­cum­stances, a deci­sion may be made by Vice President of Administration and Finance Jerry L. Scoby to can­cel classes. If this hap­pens, it is often well in advance of sched­uled class meet­ings, on a day-to-day and morning-to-afternoon basis, in accor­dance with the Ferris State Inclement Weather Policy.

With about 4,000 stu­dents liv­ing on cam­pus and with many more com­mut­ing from nearby areas that tend to be well-plowed, classes are often held at Ferris even when they are can­celed at nearby pub­lic schools.  

Since those liv­ing on cam­pus are depen­dent on uni­ver­sity ser­vices, such as cam­pus din­ing, many Ferris employ­ees are expected to work their assigned shifts despite
inclement weather.

  • Fed Up

    One of the biggest prob­lem our fam­ily has encoun­tered on days like this, is the lack of snow removal at the Ferris-run fam­ily apart­ments. I have fallen twice (and so has neigh­bors), plus children/students are forced to walk in the streets or risk falling. We pay way too much (per credit hour & to live in the apart­ments) to expe­ri­ence such lack of effort.