By Jamie McKay, Staff Writer
The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) has received a large amount of snow this winter, requiring decisions to be made by Fred Brittain, Director for Information Technology Services, and Bernard Pratt, Director of Facilities Management about snow days for the campus.
Running and skidding across his driveway and deck, as well as throwing snowballs to his dogs as a way to assess the conditions of the roads, is a ritual for Brittain on the mornings of possible snow days.
Pratt’s rituals include rising at two o’clock in the morning, at the latest, and watching weather reports on television as well as on websites, trying to decide if UMF will have a snow day.
“All of this is still not an exact science,” said Brittain regarding all methods used when determining a snow day for UMF, as weather predictions can also stray from the truth.
President of UMF, Kathryn Foster, does not make the final decision of a snow day; however, she knows that it is a daunting task no one wants to take on. “This is the hardest job on campus. This is the job that nobody wants because it is a loose decision. No matter what you do, somebody criticizes you,” said Foster.
Jillian Withee, a commuter at UMF, feels that the University does not consider the complete severity they (commuters) face when school is not closed due to a snow day. “I probably have the worst roads. Those are terrible. They don’t plow or sand ever. It’s different. If you live around here (UMF) the roads are always plowed and sanded, all over,” said Withee.
Brittain’s opinion differs from Withee’s, as he feels commuters are a major factor contributing to their decision when calling a snow day; “We have to be reasonable about what we consider to an appropriate radius from campus. Just like if the local public school district closes, it does not mean the next one (school) over will as well, even though many employees may commute from that same area. We look at our region and hope that students and employees alike make smart decisions about their own safety if they are traveling any significant distance,” said Brittain.
UMF sophomore Jennifer Garrard lives on campus and feels that faculty members who commute to work every day should have a say in the Universities decision to call a snow day.
Recently, Farmington has experienced more snow affecting students’ return to campus from break. “I mean I was supposed to drive here yesterday in the snow and we couldn’t. It was bad and I was coming from Portland,” said Garrard.
President Foster is no stranger to snow, as she recently moved from Buffalo, New York, which also experiences countless snow storms throughout the winter. She also commends Brittain and Pratt for their amazing efforts thus far.
Due to the location of Brittain’s home, President Foster agrees that he is the best candidate for the job of calling snow days; “I live within walking distance from campus. My world when it comes to snow is like hey no problem! Put on your boots and go to class. So it is easy for me to say because of course I am not driving anywhere, I am not trying to get down out of a hill, I am not trying to come across a ridge that would be in white out conditions. So I think in all well, the wise person to have would be one who understands that,” said Foster.
Brittain also provides a vast number of ways to inform faculty and students of a snow day. Pratt and Brittain call a variety of radio stations, who then announce the cancellation, they run the cancellation on television news channels, they send students and faculty emails, they post it on myCampus, the schools website, and they send text messages to those who have applied to receive them. Each avenue is fully completed by 6:30 on the morning of a cancellation.