In crisis trust your gut, not Kean

By Eric Haftel

Snow steadily falls on Kean’s campus.
Photo Credit: Eric Haftel

Once again Kean has shown that when there is a crisis, school officials are inept at handling the situation appropriately. The first example was during the aftermath of Sandy, and then the administration’s silence while snow fell during the Nor’easter on Wednesday Nov. 7, which caused slippery roads, downed trees and telephone poles.

Let’s start at the beginning with their first notification of hope after Sandy. The University sent out a notification on Friday, Nov. 2, that stated the following: “The university plans to reopen on Monday, November 5, 2012, with all classes and campus activities to take place as scheduled. Resident students will be allowed to return to residence halls on Sunday, November 4, 2012, at 4 p.m.”

That was all well and good up until Sunday at 10 a.m. when they sent out the following notification: “Due to the continued lack of electrical power, please be advised that Kean University has canceled all classes and activities on Monday, November 5. Until power is restored to the residence halls, resident students can not move back onto campus.”

Due to Kean’s delayed response many students complained they were caught off guard and didn’t get the notification at an appropriate time due in large part to the storm causing massive blackouts and poor cell service.

The other problem is that when students received an email on Friday stating we would return to campus on Sunday, we all assumed that the campus had regained power and that this wasn’t just a possibility. Based on the email that we received on Sunday that said Kean would not be open due to “continued lack of electrical power”, it would appear that the administration made a decision when they didn’t even have power. During such a hectic time as Sandy was, I don’t understand how you can make such a major decision without actually knowing for fact it is possible.

While the snow began at noon it didn’t start sticking until around 2 p.m.

While snow fell and many started to wonder what the status of the afternoon and night classes was, Kean stayed silent. When the snow began to pile up, covering cars that sat unattended in the parking lot, Kean stayed silent. When Kean students and professors alike looked at the weather reports of more snow to come through the night, Kean stayed silent.

At no point was there a social media posting, an email or a text message letting the students know what was going on. Throughout the day many were posting on Kean’s Facebook asking what was going on, including student Ron Newman.

“Really? I get the fact that the end of the semester is approaching quickly and we missed a week of classes, but to not even give an update on the status of classes tonight on the school website, twitter or campus text messaging services seems unfair. I think my tuition cost at the minimum affords me a call or web posting,” he said.

Another student, Michael Carter said, “Commuters need to know if class will be cancelled as soon as possible. We understand the school is still licking its wounds from Sandy and doesn’t want to cancel another day but don’t endanger commuter students with too late of a notice or none at all.”

None of these posts received a single response.

Even while many other schools including Caldwell College and Bloomfield College decided to close campus at 3 p.m., Kean said and did nothing.

So while Kean stayed silent, many professors took the initiative and sent out emails to their students just letting them know that while class will go on as scheduled, the student should use their best judgment and if they were unable to attend the professor would understand.

Now some may ask, “why didn’t the professor just cancel class if they were so concerned?” Great question! The answer according to numerous professors is that a professor can’t cancel class unless they are physically unable to attend. The only way to cancel class due to weather is by the school determining that the school will close entirely.

I was one of the many that chose to stay and go to my 4:30 class even while it was snowing outside. I assumed that Kean knew what was going on and decided it was best for the doors to stay open. My professor hurried through class and around 6 p.m. decided that we had enough for the day and we should just go home before the roads got really bad. The only problem was that the roads already were bad. When we walked out to our cars, we had the pleasure of digging them out and cleaning them off since the lots weren’t plowed.

I ended up needing a bit of assistance from campus police and while speaking to the officer learned that he was the only officer out there during this storm. This became quite obvious when in the middle of him helping me he got another call and was forced to leave and return to me later.

If that’s not bad enough, my ride home proves that they needed to close early.

So was there a reason to close early? I’ll let you decide after you hear what I had to deal with on my way home.

After just 10 minutes of being on the road I saw a telephone pole and numerous tree limbs on the ground. I had to pull over and get out of the car two different times and help push people who were stuck in the snow. I had to take different roads multiple times because they were closed or my car got stuck and couldn’t get through the snow. I saw six accidents on top of myself spinning and hydroplaning on numerous occasions, all while on my way home from a class at Kean University.

Now I understand that the university didn’t want to close because we had just gotten back after Hurricane Sandy. Being in class is important and is the reason why all of us are there, but our safety is the most important.

I don’t believe that Kean should have cancelled just because there was a threat of snow—the university was right to wait and see what was going on.

I do believe that once they saw that the roads were becoming more and more dangerous they should have made the decision that the students safety comes first and the university should have closed early.

Something needs to change and fast, before somebody gets hurt.

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