University Facilities VP Responds to Student Concerns Following Last Tuesday’s Winter Weather

Cassie McHugh Editor in Chief

Last Tuesday brought snow, slush and complaints from students who felt that the University should have delayed or canceled classes due to the weather conditions.

Some students shared their thoughts in response to an Instagram query posted last Tuesday afternoon to The Villanovan’s official Instagram page.

“I was surprised we had school today, and I did not feel safe walking around,” user @mallarysellars wrote.

“I felt like my safety was not a priority today,” user @realpatrickrose echoed. “Public roads and campus paths were very unsafe.”

University Vice President for Facilities director Robert Morro said he and his team use three different weather sites to monitor the weather and that all three were predicting a change from sleet to rain in the morning on Tuesday, prompting his decision to keep the University open. After freezing rain continued into the afternoon and the sites continued to push the changeover time back, he and the Provost’s Office decided to cancel all classes beginning at 4:00PM or later.

Morro said last Tuesday reflected his typical process for evaluating decisions for University closures or delays. Overnight storms that close state highways and cause SEPTA to shut down the railways make those decisions easy, but in less obvious cases, Morro relies on his on campus personnel to assess campus conditions and make recommendations. He said he also typically speaks with the Provost’s Office before making the final call, which they aim to report out via the ‘Nova Alert messaging system by 6:00 AM.

Many surrounding school districts, colleges and universities were closed on Tuesday, including Cabrini University, Rosemont College and Radnor Township School District, which the University falls in. Nearby, Bryn Mawr College canceled all classes scheduled to begin before 11:00AM. Morro said school district decisions do not impact his own, because unlike the University, they are dependent on the readiness of school buses. Sometimes, he looks at the decisions of other colleges, but he said they are not heavily weighted factors.

“We can have radically different weather a short distance away,” Morro said. “Sometimes that snow-rain line is nearby.”

On Tuesday, rumors circulated among some students and faculty members that a University Board of Trustees meeting was behind the University’s decision to remain open. Morro said the meeting did occur on Tuesday, but took place off campus at the Villanova Inn.

“It’s Father Peter’s decision, if they [the Board members] are going to meet or not, and it’s independent of what the school does,” Morro said. “Because there was a board meeting, I did have a conversation with Father Peter to make sure that we were on the same page. Usually, he is not involved in the decision. He’s happy to let us decide.”

In a poll run on The Villanovan Instagram account, 76% of 261 respondents said that they did not feel safe walking to or from class on Tuesday. 72% said they or someone they know slipped and fell coming to or from classes.

“I fell while getting up from falling,” user @gkreit commented.

Students reported that the hill beyond John Barry Hall, the sidewalk underneath the SEPTA overpass near South Campus and the brick paths between Mendel Hall and the Connelly Center were some of the most slippery spots on campus.

Morro said a grounds team of about 30 people works to clear and salt campus during winter storms. On Tuesday, most members of that team worked from 4:00AM to 4:30PM. According to Morro, it takes the team about three hours to fully clear and salt the campus. He said they monitor known problem areas and high traffic locations and pay extra attention to the brick pavers, which tend to remain icy longer than concrete and asphalt pathways.

Morro said students who notice slippery areas or have other concerns can contact the Facilities office or Public Safety, which works closely with his team during winter weather conditions.  

In cases like Tuesday’s, where conditions deteriorated more severely than expected and many students reported feeling unsafe walking to class, Morro said students should use responsible judgement in evaluating what to do.  

“We can’t be at every path and walkway and step of campus,” he said. “I think everyone has to use prudence. Sometimes faculty members feel that it’s unsafe, or they personally can’t get to campus because where they live is in a bad way, so they may, independently of the rest of the school, cancel their classes. We expect them to be prudent adults and do what they think is the right thing. In general, faculty and students, they’re all adults. They have to do what they think is prudent and safe for their particular situation.”

As one Instagram user remarked, that decision can often be a challenging one.