Campus delays and closures: behind the scenes
The decision to delay the opening of Wright State’s main campus on Feb. 22 until 10 a.m. because of winter weather was one made by then Provost Steven Angle, but not until after he was supplied with a wealth of information.
That information comes from the Physical Plant, Public Safety offices, Vice President of Business and Fiscal Affairs Mark Polatajko and Vice President of Student Affairs Dan Abrahamowicz, according to Polatajko.
Polatajko said that when threatening weather patterns begin to develop or the forecast shows weather that “may have an impact on [WSU’s] ability to service its students and the community,” Physical Plant and Public Safety begin to relay that information to both Polatajko and Abrahamowicz. After Polatajko and Abrahamowicz believe they have gathered the information they need, both men offer a recommendation to the Provost, Polatajko said.
“Our protocol calls for Physical Plant and Public Safety to start tracking and monitoring exactly the timing of those [weather patterns], what is the magnitude of the event and is there a potential impact that would have a negative impact on the way we would serve our community and students,” Polatajko said. “So we are in constant contact.”
In addition to relaying information between Physical Plant and Public Safety about current weather conditions, Polatajko said both departments inform his office about the state of local businesses and educational institutions. WSU also relies on Wright Patterson Air Force Base to keep track of developing storms, Polatajko said.
“We are in direct contact with the base at all times, and we all track and monitor Clark State, Sinclair, Central State, U.D. and others within the region,” Polajtako said.
WSU’s goal, Polatajko said, is to provide a safe environment for students and staff, which includes, but is not limited to, traveling to and around campus.
“It’s an all-encompassing type of equation,” Polatajko said. “Being able to clean the walkways and making sure that they can park their cars. Obviously, [we focus on] the traffic patterns coming in and what is the traffic on the major throughways and all of that is taken into consideration.”
To make university students and faculty aware of changes to campus start times, WSU uses the Rave Mobile Safety alert system to send “text, voice and email messages to the university community”, according to WSU’s website.
Freshman Lauren Duke believes that WSU’s emergency notification system is effective in providing students ample time to react to potentially problematic winter weather.
“I think they (WSU) do pretty well because they give you a lot of warning before class actually starts, so you have plenty of time to leave early or clean your car off,” Duke said. “I think they do a pretty good job because they put it on TV too.”
“We learn from history and past events,” Polatajko said. “But every incident or event must be taken upon its own merits because you can’t replicate exactly the same conditions that occurred previously to what is taking place right now.”
Student feedback, such as the suggestion to change the time of the text message alerts from 2:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., so as not to disturb people during their sleep, is something that Polatajko said he does not take lightly.
“We take any and all comments seriously,” Polatajko said. “To be honest, I think there was only a couple of comments we received from the freezing rain event we had about a month ago and what took place two weeks ago. A majority of the feedback has been positive because at the end of the day, I view that our mission is, and appropriately so, that we are open to service the students, community, faculty and employees so that they can achieve their educational objectives and goals.”