The exceptionally high amount of snow this winter has made life unusually difficult for the college’s grounds crew and has led to ice-related injuries. According to Director of Public Safety Michael Hill, there were a total of 11 reported cases of slips and falls due to snow or ice since the beginning of the year.
Director of Grounds Jeff Jabco said that it has been particularly difficult to clear the snow this year.
“The problem with this winter is that we’ve had many snows and they weren’t melting in between so it just accumulated more and more and more,” he said. “This was one of the coldest winters that we’ve we had, so just with the accumulation it made it tougher, we don’t usually have snow still around at this time.”
After treating injured students, Worth Health Center asks them to fill out a report with Public Safety indicating the area where they fell, although the problem areas identified by these reports aren’t always addressed by grounds staff with the same urgency.
“When I do get a report from Public Safety, it’s not necessarily that as soon as someone falls that we go out and take care of it then because usually it’s campus wide,” Jabco said. “Every morning we would have my entire crew out taking care of icy spots, and certainly during a storm everyone is out. We try to pay attention to major pathways and at other times we know areas which typically have icy problems.”
Stephanie Wang ’17 sprained her ankle by slipping in the tunnel on the way to Mullan Fitness Center and found the problem area tackled at once. Upon falling, she was helped by grounds staff working nearby who also immediately salted the area where she fell.
Lanie Schlessinger ’15 broke her wrist and tore a ligament by slipping on black ice while walking down the hill between Dana and Wharton. She said, “I don’t think that they really confronted it. In fact, Public Safety seemed kind of uninterested in the report. I don’t think that there was anything that they could do.”
Jess Karol ’16, who slipped and sustained a wrist injury on the baseball field next to Pittenger, Palmer and Roberts, raised concerns about the conditions of paths not on the main campus.
“Given that there are over 100 people that live in PPR, it is crazy for the school to not have a paved path to these campus dorms. When other paved paths on campus were cleared and walkable, the PPR path continued to be like a sheet of ice and dangerous,” Karol said. “In a few instances, a school plow cleared the snow on the path. However, this only caused a Zamboni effect, making the path flatter and more slippery.”
Jabco said that the sidewalk and main pathways owned by the college, including those next to PPR and ML, are plowed. However, areas which are part of private property such as in front of condos and areas deemed inaccessible such as the woodchip path next to PPR are not maintained by the college.
Many students with injuries do not condemn the school’s policy of no college wide class cancellation which lets individual faculty make decisions about canceling class.
Brennan Klein ’14 injured his leg slipping on Magill Walk. “If they can clear the paths well enough, then they can have people go to class,” he said.
“I’m actually grateful that we don’t have to make up days that we took for weather conditions,” Schlessinger said. “I sort of wear it as a badge of honor that we go to class even when the conditions are terrible but undoubtedly there’s a safety hazard associated with that.”
Christine Song ’14 got a concussion after slipping in the tunnel next to the train station while on her way to class.
“I wish I took it easier after I fell, because I really do think doing all the work for my other classes made it worse because you’re supposed to cut down on cognitive activity when you have a concussion,” she said. “But I’m not going to blame the culture of Swarthmore necessarily, because I think it’s very endogenous in that we selected to be here and this is part of who we are, but it would be nicer if it was more acceptable to take it easy.”
Students continue to be appreciative of the effort put in by the maintenance and grounds staff, despite sustaining injuries. “I think that the college is doing the best they can,” Schlessinger said. “I think that they have really dedicated ground staff and facilities staff who have tried to make this as easy for the students as possible.”
The grounds staff is thankful for the students’ appreciation. “All my staff which is out clearing the snow, we have really appreciated the number of students saying thank you,” Jabco said. “When we’re out there clearing the snow and students walk by and appreciate the job we’re doing, that makes people feel really good.”