By Alex Corbett
UNB sent an email out at 7:58 a.m. Wednesday morning, cancelling classes for the day. This was nearly two hours later than the 6 a.m. cancellation announcement time given in the university’s storm policy.
Heavy snow, icy roads and poor visibility made for an inconvenient and dangerous commute to and from campus. Many students only discovered that classes were canceled after having already made the trip.
Annabelle Babineau is one such student.
“I got the email at 8 [a.m.], when I [had] finally made my way up that treacherous hill and dodged a few accidents. Finally [I] made it back home; what was normally a seven minute drive took me 40 minutes,” she said.
“I am at school everyday at 8, so sending the school closure around that time was kind of irritating, to say the least. I was going to send someone an email, there was so many cars stuck around campus, and it could have been avoided.”
Barbara Nicholson, associate vice-president of capital planning & property development, decides whether or not to cancel classes. She sent an email to the UNB community later Wednesday morning to explain the late cancellation time.
“[Wednesday] morning at 5:30 a.m., there was very little snow down and conditions on campus were good. It was assessed that if the snow accumulation was as predicted, the campus could remain open. The intensity of the storm had changed significantly by 7:30 a.m.,” she said.
The email also explained that facilities management had an additional problem, the primary snow plow had suffered a mechanical failure. This plow not only provided snow removal for UNB and STU but also was the only plow that salted the roads.
“Combined with the unfortunate fact that we had equipment issues with our primary snow removal plow and it was assessed that we could not maintain campus conditions, the decision was taken to close,” Nicholson said.
Communications director Sonya Gilks told the Brunswickan that UNB had followed the snow policy, while always considering student safety. Wednesday’s particular circumstances had made it impossible to warn students as early as is usually expected but that cancellation notices still went out as soon as the decision was made.
Bruce Rogerson, head of UNB security had sent out cancellation notices on the new emergency response message system, but said that because so many students were already on the roads that it was difficult to reach them by their phones.
Students like Danielle Donnelly, who commutes to campus by walking, only heard the news while out on the streets.
“I am definitely one of those students that made it to campus, and I found out it was closed by a woman driving by. She rolled down the window and told me campus had just closed, so I turned around and walked back home,” she said.
The university has been fielding calls and complaints throughout the day, but maintains they made the best decision they could.
“These decision are never easy to make, however, given the circumstances, I believe the right decision was made with the safety of our campus community in mind,” Nicholson said.