The decision to keep NYU open during a potentially hazardous winter storm has caused controversy and represents a significant risk to both students and staff. The university administration has underestimated the obvious risks associated with traveling during a severe snowstorm. The decision is both negligent and dangerous.
Winter Storm Pax is shaping up to be brutal. After hitting the South hard, the storm is expected to bring heavy snowfall to the Northeast starting last night around midnight. Five to 12 inches of snow are expected to hit New York, and this could later turn into sleet or rain. Winds may reach up to speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour around New York City, causing poor visibility conditions. In the tristate area outside of New York, the conditions are set to be even worse. For the large commuter body of NYU, this represents a particular danger. Even the most modest predictions would undoubtedly result in traffic delays affecting anyone who does not live near campus.
A significant proportion of NYU students commute each day. This morning they will undoubtedly be subjected to consistent delays and hazards in what is typically a safe routine journey. In an email yesterday, the NYU administration encouraged “managers and faculty to be flexible” with regard to commuters — ironic, considering its own inflexible decision. Moreover, leaving individual decisions up to managers and professors wrongly alleviates the administration of their own responsibility. Of worthwhile mention, and to the university’s credit, NYU has made clear that it will continue to monitor the storm, and its decision to keep the school open, closely through the night.
A visit to the NYU Secrets page on Facebook, an open, anonymous forum which is followed by over 22,000 people and is a hub of NYU online activity, is the clearest way to witness the separation between the administration and the NYU community. A post uploaded to the site within hours of the aforementioned email from the NYU administration puts the problem succinctly: “I refuse to miss classes because I pay NYU tuition for the education and it’s ridiculous that I have to put myself in danger to get there.”
If the university hopes to improve perceptions among students, it must become receptive to student and staff safety. NYU’s continued negligence deepens the divide between the school’s administration and its students and staff. The National Weather Service has published a winter storm warning for the tristate region where “snowfall will make travel treacherous.” NYU administrators must heed their advice.