Saturday, December 18, 2010

Final exams marred by heavy snow

What a crazy end to the Fall 2010 semester at Concord University, right?

I had two finals scheduled for Thursday, the final day of the semester. One at 9 a.m. and the second was at 11:30. Wednesday night, I'm laying in bed around 3 a.m. and I look out the window. It's dark and I don't have my glasses on, but it looks like the sky is moving outside my window. "Must be snowing," I think to myself. I wake up a little before 8 a.m. and realize that it had been snowing. How much, I was soon to find out.

Around 8:30, I'm getting ready to leave. I open the door and see the following:


We're not on the inclement weather exam schedule, as I had not received a text message from Concord. Right before I leave, I get a text message from one of my professors asking if I can make it to campus. Since we're not on the inclement weather schedule, I tell my professor that I should be able to, since Athens Road is probably cleared. Otherwise, I reason, we'd be on the inclement weather schedule.

I was wrong. Athens Road, the winding backroad to Concord, has not been cleared:



The speed limit on Athens Road is 45. The average speed people usually go on Athens Road is about 55-60. I was creeping down Athens Road at a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour:



When I finally made it to campus, the grounds were horrible. Nothing had been cleared and maintenance men were in the process of clearing off sidewalks on lawn mowers rigged with snow plows:



I make it to my final about 10 minutes late. It's okay, the professor was also running late. He woke up and assumed we were on the inclement weather schedule, so he wasn't rushing to campus. The final starts at about 9:15. At 9:22 I receive a text message. The professor isn't paying attention, so I pull my phone out and check it. It's a text alert from Concord. It says that the campus will be closing at 11:15 (after the first final).

I finish my final at about 10 o'clock and head to the library. I sit there and try to grasp the situation. As I'm doing that, I upload the pictures above (and a few others) to Facebook. I think to myself, "How could we not have been on the inclement weather schedule today?"

I decide to do a little journalism and look up the number for Mark Stella. Along with being Concord's Police Chief, he is also the Director of Public Safety. I try his office a few times and both times his secretary tells me that he is not available. By this point it's getting pretty bad out, so I go home.

I never did get an answer to why were weren't on the inclement weather schedule. This was a huge mistake by Concord's President, Gregory Aloia, to not place us on the inclement weather exam schedule. There were probably about 4 inches of snow on the ground when I looked out the door at 8:30 Thursday morning. When I left Concord at around 11, it was alternating between hail and rain, which caused the roads to freeze.

I don't know if this has changed since the last time I heard about it, but a committee (with Dr. Aloia having final say) determines whether or not to put Concord on the inclement weather schedule. Unless things have changed, here's how the committee works: they informally get together the night before and check the forecast, they all wake up really early and check the forecast and roads and whatnot, they get together and decide the course of action, then Dr. Aloia makes his final decision based on their report.

I don't know who's on the committee aside from Dr. Aloia and Officer Stella. I'm not even sure if that's still the way they decide to go on the inclement weather schedule. If anybody knows anything else, fill me in.

Bottom line here is that somebody fucked up. Concord should not have been on the regular exam schedule Thursday morning. People were put in danger by driving on snow-covered roads. I know, I drove on those roads. Those were horrible conditions. Somebody finally realized it, as they made the decision to close campus before 9:30. The decision should have been made hours earlier, in a much-more responsible and timely manner.

If anybody knows why we were not placed on the inclement weather exam schedule, let us know. Like John Walsh says, "You can remain anonymous."

11 comments:

  1. I think Marjie Flannigan is on that committee as well.

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  2. I tagged her on Facebook. Maybe she can provide some insight.

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  3. Here was a comment left on Facebook by Curtis Kearns. Kearns is a former student representative to Concord's Board of Governors, as well as a former Student Government Vice President.

    "If I remember correctly there is now an advisory committee that recommends to the Dean and President. Barring a very good reason, I think this may have been putting exams before lives. The easy thing to do was carry on with classes so students wouldn't have to make other arrangements. The hard thing to do would be putting students (and everyone else) first. As an institution, we're not known for making the hard choices and putting students first."

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  4. Here's a comment left on Facebook by Ashley Hicks. Hicks is a former Student Government Association Business Manager & Vice President.

    "Dr. Aloia wasn't aware of the conditions on campus on Thursday. I'm pretty sure Dr. John David Smith was in charge because Dr. Aloia was off campus due to personal reasons. That's what Dr. Brichford told me that Thursday morning before my 9am final."

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  5. Here were my responses from Facebook:

    "Curtis,

    Sounds about right.

    Ashley,

    Interesting. Looks like there was some sort of break in the usual way the inclement weather schedule is decided."

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  6. Ashley was correct, Dr. Aloia was not on campus for several days before the snow due to personal issues. There are several people who have a phone conference to discuss the weather situation. At the time of their 1st conversation (scheduled), they believed it would not be as bad as the forecast stated, and made the decision to remain on normal schedule. A few hours later the snow "snuck up on them" so to speak and they realized they made the wrong decision and had to start damage control. :/ They then tried to get all of those people back on the phone (but when its not scheduled it gets a tad-bit harder) to discuss what to do. Hope that helps. Can't really say much more.

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  7. Interesting insight. Thank you for that. If you could, could you please elaborate on one statement:

    "...they believed it would not be as bad as the forecast stated, and made the decision to remain on normal schedule. A few hours later the snow "snuck up on them" so to speak and they realized they made the wrong decision and had to start damage control."

    I'm not sure if this is a case of maybe wording a statement incorrectly, but the way that's written it comes across as the committee knowing what the weather forecast was going to be, but still deciding to keep exams as regularly scheduled. If that's the case, that is not good at all.

    Also, I'm not sure if it's correct to say that this "snuck up on them." I noticed the weather was bad at 8:30 am, half an hour before exams started. It wasn't snowing heavy at that point - I feel confident in saying this could have been noticed around 8 or so, an hour before exams started.

    Even if they didn't come to the decision the night before, I feel like they should have been able to notice the weather and call off classes before half an hour after exams started.

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  8. Please note that anytime of the day, the Concord Emergency Response team can meet to cancel classes, as was probably done here too late. There should be a student on that team (I was that representative last year) who can call the entire committee together as he/she sees fit. That Committee has effect that day, whereas the Inclement Weather committee decides for the following day.

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  9. But unlike the Emergency Response team, there is no student on the Inclement Weather committee. That's the main difference.

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  10. The roads were awful, yet you were able to take photos from your phone whilst driving? You're so concerned with personal safety--that wasn't very safe. Also, I don't understand why you feel the need to make everything a journalistic endeavor. You're not going to find a huge story at Concord...it's Concord.

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  11. I was wondering if anybody was going to bring up that I was taking pictures while I was driving :)

    There are huge stories at Concord. You just have to look for them.

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