Editorial: Western is slipping

By Andy Garrison

February 5, 2013

Western’s school closing policy for weather events needs to loosen up or get better supplies to combat the conditions. SNOW! In the aftermath of the freeze followed by snowfall recently, there have been many reports and witnessed events of students falling on several days of slippery sidewalks around campus. Physical Plant Director Lonnie Johnson explains the strategy for combating this specific weather event. “Our staff of six groundskeepers follows a prescribed sequence of snow removal based on priority of areas and times by which they need to be ready,” Johnson said. “In this particular event, we were notified by the university police around 2 a.m. and our crew arrived on campus later that morning. Johnson goes on to break down areas of priority around campus for snow and ice removal. "Their first priority is always roads and parking lots so people can be as safe as possible once they reach campus," Johnson said. "Sidewalks are worked on at the same time as men are able to shift from lots to walks.  Sidewalks/roads, and lots must be bladed sufficiently before any type melting product can be applied." Unfortunately, It appears that Western is using a sub-par grade of chemical and supplies to combat the conditions. "Of course, these products only work well at temps above 25 degrees," Johnson said. "We also use a mixture of sand/gravel on surfaces.  We treat areas throughout the day as warranted.” In other words, the ice melting products Western uses only have a seven degree effective range when taken from the freezing temperature of 32 degrees. If Western continues to keep the campus open through sub-zero storms then that is just not acceptable. They would need to use an ice-melt compound such as calcium chloride that is effective to 25 degrees below zero to keep the campus pathways ice-free. Johnson goes on to explain how keeping the campus fall free is close to impossible in these conditions. “As with any event where snow/ice is involved, the chances of someone falling is always there,” Johnson said. “Nothing we could do would ever prevent someone from slipping on an ice/snow covered surface.  Maybe if we could bring the weather from Florida to northern Missouri, we could make that happen.” Since the case is such that fighting back the ice in snow and ice storms below 25 degrees is impossible with the products Western currently uses, then we either need better chemicals or the administration needs to examine the well-being of the students and faculty more closely when these storms arise and be more open to closing the campus for the day before someone gets truly hurt.