Section: News

Unfazed by deep freeze, campus stays open and classes continue

Unfazed by deep freeze, campus stays open and classes continue

Maintenance worker Andrew Olsen shovels gravel onto Middle Path during yesterday’s freezing weather.

By Madeleine Thompson

The rumors began to circulate as early as Sunday night that Tuesday was going to be an extreme weather day, and students prepared for an event that hadn’t happened since the great ice storm of 2011 — a total College shutdown.

Though news outlets were predicting temperatures below zero and wind chill in the negative double digits, seemingly everything but class was called off. Emails began to go out about cancelled yoga classes, shortened hours at Olin Library and the Kenyon Athletic Center and a supplementary shuttle service. The actual high on Tuesday, according to the Weather Channel’s website, was five degrees Fahrenheit, with a low of -22.

“I didn’t go further south than Gund Commons,” said Katie Hardiman ’15, a New York native and Caples resident who likes the snow but not the cold. “Don’t tell my professors.”

Steve Van Holde, associate professor of political science, wondered in an all-student email on Tuesday morning why the campus was not closed. “Colleges all over the midwest have shut their doors for the day,” he wrote in the email. “Why, I wonder, haven’t we done the same?” Each of the Ohio Five schools, however, remained open.

Emily Sussman ’15 thought classes should have been cancelled as well, but Eddie Baxter ’15 had no complaints. “It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “The shuttles really, really, really helped. I was actually really impressed with the administration and how well they managed to do that.”

Kenyon starts to prepare for major weather events early. Heaters and other relevant equipment are serviced “between the time the last leaf drops off the trees and the first snow,” according to Director of Facility Operations Greg Widener. “This includes greasing fittings, adjusting drive belts and making sure the equipment starts as it should when it is needed,” Widener said. “The preparations were sufficient, but extreme cold weather can cause unanticipated equipment failure, such as the Library air handler system.”

Ed Welker, an AVI Foodsystems worker, said AVI doesn’t do anything in particular to prepare for freezing temperatures. “We have a rack of paper [dishware] in case the power goes out,” Welker said. But otherwise “it’s just like every other day.” Paper plates were used on Sunday night and Monday because the dish room employees could not make it to work.

Campus Safety buys uniforms specifically built for layering, so that officers working outside stay as warm as possible. “We have not had the bitter cold in the last number of years as we have had this year,” Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper said. “The most challenging [issue] has been keeping everyone safe, especially on the weekends, with exposure issues.”

In anticipation of snowfall and icing, the Maintenance Department buys salt every year from a supplier in Cleveland. But an email written by Grounds Manager Steve Vaden and distributed by Widener on Monday cautioned the supply was running low. “The College has ordered salt well in advance of the need, but due to high demand, suppliers are running behind,” Vaden wrote. “The College is almost out of salt.” Vaden added in the email that the next salt delivery would likely be Feb. 6 or 7. In an email from earlier this month, however, Widener cautioned the community that salt is not as effective below 19 degrees.

Typical salt use at Kenyon in a year is 75 tons, but almost all 100 tons ordered this year have been depleted. At $60.70 per ton, $6,070 have been spent so far on salt. “There are always ways to improve any process, [but] technology hasn’t changed much for snow removal,” Widener said. Options for clearing snow are limited. “Pile it up and then move it out of your way. It will melt eventually.”

However, insufficient clearing of snow and ice can lead to other dangers as well. During Sunday’s Student Council meeting, the Campus Safety Committee reported two cases of broken wrists due to injuries associated with snow and ice.

Compared to the last several winters, though, this one has been colder but not necessarily more challenging. One added difficulty Widener faced was the additional responsibility of clearing and salting the extended sidewalks surrounding the newest North Campus Apartments.

Another was plowing around cars parked in the wrong spaces. “This makes it difficult to plow effectively.  Students should park in designated parking lots,” Widener said. “It isn’t difficult to miss a car piled up with snow and figure out it hasn’t moved in a few days.” Hooper advised students to “dress warmly, in layers, [and] do not stay in the cold for very long” and to call Safety when in need of assistance.

As the Polar Vortex reaches its end and warmer temperatures are forecasted for the weekend, students can rest assured of one thing — it will take a lot more than below freezing temperatures to shut down Kenyon College.


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