UMass prepares for potential snow days

The University had two closures in 2019 due to weather

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Anish Roy/Daily Collegian

By Will Mallas, Assistant News Editor

As the UMass 2019-20 academic year pushes through the winter, the University of Massachusetts has several guidelines it will follow in the instance of a snowstorm.

In November of last year, the University released its “Emergency Closing and Snow-Related Policies,” detailing the procedures UMass undertakes in the event of a snowstorm as well as providing information for students, faculty and staff.

To determine if the campus will close during a snowstorm, the University considers both the forecast of the Amherst area and decisions made by the governor.

“When the governor issues an order to close state executive offices in response to a severe winter weather advisory or alert,” the page reads, “university officials take into account the governor’s decision in relation to local conditions and community safety.”

The University also notes that there may be “regional conditions” which allow the campus to remain open even if the governor decides to close executive offices.

A campus closure may last just for the day hours, in the evening or all day, or the campus may have a delayed opening, according to a document on “severe weather closing information.” Any closures remain in effect until midnight unless the campus reopens during the same day.

Students can find out if the campus is closed on the University’s Emergency Closing Status page. In addition, closings will be announced on regional radio and TV news stations and students can sign up for text message alerts as well.

During a campus closure, all dining commons as well as Blue Wall and Roots Café remain open. In addition, emergency services such as the UMass Police Department and Health Services as well as Residence Halls and emergency response at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health remain open.

The employees who staff these services are deemed “essential personnel,” according to a memo from William Brady, the Vice Chancellor and Chief Human Resources Officer, and are required to report to work in the instance of a campus closure due to a snow storm.

“Your safety is of paramount importance, so if you believe that you are unable to safely report to work as scheduled, please contact your supervisor to request vacation or personal time,” Brady wrote. “Supervisors and managers are reminded to be responsive to such vacation and personal time requests.”

Other University services, such as child care, the recreational center and retail locations, will not be open during campus closures. “Non-essential employees” will not be “charged leave” for closures unless “previously scheduled to be off during the period of closure for any reason,” the memo reads. This includes any vacation time, sick leave, personal leave or leave without pay.

The University has a “staggered departure procedure” for campus closures occurring in the middle of the day “in order to assist in an orderly evacuation from the campus.”

The process groups non-essential employees by their last name and has each group leave the campus in 20 minute increments beginning 60 minutes before the campus officially closes. The order of departures among the groups is rotated during each early closure “so that no one employee group is always first or last.”

Exceptions are given to faculty and staff who are scheduled to teach a class or administer exam before the official closing time.

UMass has also provided a list of parking lots that allow for parking and which do not during a snow storm. In addition, the page offers suggestions for parking during snow storms, such as parking near other parked vehicles in the front of the lot and seeking alternative methods of transportation to campus.

2019 saw two closures for the UMass campus due to weather; one on Jan. 20 and one on Dec. 2. The campus had a delayed opening on Dec. 3.

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.