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Snow Not Over It: Students and Faculty Disappointed with University Response

by Rebecca Serviss

Students and faculty at Montclair State University are still unsatisfied with the administration’s response to the recent snowstorm that left hundreds snowed in, stranded and trapped in traffic.

On-campus residents had to hike through unplowed walkways only to be welcomed by unheated dorm rooms. Commuters were stuck in on-campus parking garages for multiple hours, and those already on the road were trapped in traffic with no way out.

An email was sent to Barton and Gordon Hall residents in Machuga Heights alerting them that the heating system was not working. Photo credit: Rebecca Serviss

Junior television and digital media major Malinda DiPasquale commutes to Montclair State from Woodland Park, New Jersey. It usually takes her less than 20 minutes to get to school. In the snowstorm, it took her about 2 hours to drive 10 minutes.

DiPasquale had multiple classes that day but did not know the severity of the storm until the conditions got worse. She received multiple messages from her parents advising that she go home before the roads became unsafe.

Unfortunately, the class she was in made students put their phones against the whiteboard, and DiPasquale did not see the incoming texts until it was too late.

“I don’t think that teachers should be allowed to tell their students to put their phones on the whiteboard,” Dipasquale said. “If I saw [the messages], I would’ve left.”

Because of the dangerous road conditions and the long lines of traffic to get off campus, DiPasquale made the decision to stay the night.

In response to the university’s handling of the storm, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1904 released a statement the following day.

The AFT understood that the weather conditions were worse than anyone expected and recognized Montclair State’s efforts.

The university took measures in the developing situations, including allowing commuters to stay overnight in the Student Center and provided free food to stragglers.

Students help shovel cars out of the snow.
Rebecca Serviss | The Montclarion Photo credit: Rebecca Serviss

With all of the accommodations made, the AFT still believes that the official decision to cancel classes after 4 p.m. was not enough.

“Again, while the severity of the storm was unanticipated, the university was clearly unprepared for the resulting emergency,” the AFT said in their written statement. “This is unacceptable, and our community deserves better.”

According to Erika Bleiberg, the director of media relations at Montclair State, some of what was said in the AFT’s statement is inaccurate.

The statement claimed food services in the Student Center, Red Hawk Diner and Cafe Diem closed with people utilizing those services left with nowhere to go.

“All dining locations on campus stayed open for their normally scheduled hours, except for the Red Hawk Diner, which closed at 9 p.m.,” Bleiberg said in a written statement.

Students help push cars out of the snow.
Rebecca Serviss | The Montclarion Photo credit: Rebecca Serviss

Bleiberg said that food staff worked between 17 and 20 hours that day, with about 700 sandwiches served to commuters unable to get home.

“Montclair State University leadership is grateful to facilities, police, food service and the many other staff members who remained on campus during this challenging event,” Bleiberg said. “They rallied together and were instrumental in providing assistance to the community.”

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