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Evaluating the safety of our staff in a snowstorm

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

The snow piles up on the ground outside, finally beginning to slow, yet its remnants promise to keep the conditions for the day dangerous and uncertain. Branches and fallen trees block pathways in the borough, and some residential areas darken as a result of damaged power lines.

Meanwhile, on campus, students roam the college and desperately hope their classes will be cancelled. Some students walk up the path of Parrish Beach, trudging the path that the essential employees from the grounds crew worked to clear. As these Swatties entered Parrish, however, they may have been surprised to notice that, despite many essential staff members reporting to work, the administrative office hall was practically a ghost town. Many administrative members deemed the snowy conditions too severe to come to work, despite the fact that required staff, including many EVS workers, dining staff, and grounds workers, were required to report to work in spite of the storm.

We at the Phoenix find this unfair as it places an unequal burden on essential staff relative to the administration. While we recognize that many people could not make it to work due to the conditions and while we respect the need to practice safety precautions, it is absolutely unfair that many higher administrators did not have to report to work while many staff members were not given the same options to practice such precautions. These staff members were not allowed to follow these precautions despite the fact that they are not paid as high a salary as the deans, and many do not have as reliable winter transportation considering some depend on public transportation. We believe that it sends the wrong message to staff members in our community that that their safety is not as important as the safety of other employees. This is especially a problem in that it demonstrates a hierarchy of importance in the college that respects the decisions and safety of higher administration without equally respecting this integrity of other staff members.

Of course, we at the Phoenix recognize that some staff truly are essential to the maintenance of the college, and that it would have been nearly impossible to maintain the college without these employees. For example, some members of grounds crew were absolutely essential in ensuring that paths remained clear and, thanks tremendously to them, students were still able to roam the paths of campus and make it to their scheduled classes without trudging through inches of snow. Dining staff in Sharples, Essie’s, Kohlberg, and Science Center were needed so that students could still eat properly in spite of the storm. And to be fair, we at the Phoenix recognize that the college did not necessarily make all EVS staff report to work, but left it up to “relevant departments” to decide if all staff members were absolutely necessary.

However, we at the Phoenix believe this becomes an issue when all of these essential staff members are expected to report to work, yet many members of the administration and higher staff do not need to follow the same expectations. While some of the administration may work from home, it still does not change the fact that they are not standing in solidarity with the essential staff who have no choice but to report to work. Clearly, changes in college policy need to be made to ensure that these staff members are still respected and treated fairly amongst other members of the college community. As a result, we at the Phoenix call for Swarthmore to either increase their expectations of the administration and higher staff to report to work or that the required staff members who do report to work receive extra compensation and respect for their time.

 

Winter: an outsider’s experience

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

To many of my peers here at Swat, and I’m sure those who experienced snow for the first time over Snowzilla will empathize, my fascination with the cold and the snow seems amusing. It is not, however, the mere superficial aesthetic of snow that inspires me to write this article, but rather a curiosity that owes to the need to experience the romanticism of winter. We encounter the thematic references to the season of slumber in almost all forms of art, literature, and expression. For me, the curiosity to understand them internally, as opposed to writing about Robert Frost’s representation of it in English class, is what fuels my fascination. What is it about the bleak, harsh season that fascinates us?

From travelling the vast white landscapes of Skyrim, to the long mournful melodies of Tchaikovsky’s 1st symphony, it is obvious that winter has inspired creativity from within. Even without ever experiencing it for myself, everything from lines in Game of Thrones like “Winter is coming” to quests to end the eternal winter in “Frozen” have made it clear that winter is a time of difficulty, hibernation, and sorrow. It might be something we take for granted but for aeons we have known that winter is a time of survival, a relentless force of nature that pushes us to keep ourselves alive and reminds our species of its fragility.  Something about the cold instills melancholiness, fear, and a sense of insignificance which I understood even without ever living in a place where it can get unbearably cold. My fascination stems from an attempt to put a face to the artistic persona of winter that we have all encountered in varying forms.

The night Snowzilla hit, I remember stepping outside and my jaw immediately dropping. It was like all of Parrish Beach had been covered by a fresh blanket of castor sugar. The vibrant textures and colors of fall had slowly wilted, culminating in this newly created flatness. Vast, white and uniform. Beautiful in an otherworldly way. The initial excitement was widespread and we made the most of the massive playground that the campus had become. A hike in the Crum helped me realize how the snow didn’t just cover the environment but became it, completely replacing everything that was there before it. The change of the seasons reminds us that nothing is constant. The old eventually gives way to the new.  It sounds clichéd but is something that really hit home when I experienced it myself.

One would think that in this day and age, at least in a place like Swat, with central heating and warm clothing, the cold would not affect our lives significantly. Yet, immediately after the first few days of excitement we are reminded why winter still takes its toll on us, even in smallest of ways. On the cold days (and I know there haven’t been many this year) getting out of bed, touching metal doorknobs, and walking barefoot become such slight reminders. Even when dressed from head to toe, walking outside becomes a nuisance because the few square inches of skin that are exposed go numb. Motivation to leave the building dies and we feel much more lethargic. It is essential to remember that the same weather is amplified and can have devastating consequences on those who are less privileged. What is important is that we take these as reminders of the triumph of Nature and its effect on our lives.

Why am I writing about something as trivial as winter when there are so many more relevant and important matters at hand? Because sometimes it is essential to take a step back and reflect upon life based on our experiences with simple matters. Something as simple and as seemingly unimportant as winter and the change of seasons has had colossal implications throughout history. Our awe of nature is precisely why we romanticize winter. Here at Swat, we get caught up in the monotony and the grind of day-to-day college life but forget that the simplest things can remind us of our futility in the grand scheme of things.

A snowy winter, and some injuries to show for it

in Around Campus/News by

An injured victim of the snow

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.”

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