Snow Emergency No Concern at Temple

Despite suspended public transportation and unplowed streets, classes were in session for the Owls

Today, the city declared a snow emergency and SEPTA was forced to suspend service on all buses and trolleys and delay trains. But Temple University was open for business at 8 a.m.

At a school where students come from all over the region via public transit, university President Ann Weaver Hart and other decision-makers chose not to err on the side of caution. Instead, they asked students and faculty to proceed as normal. As if all streets were plowed and every possible means of transportation was available.

It’s, frankly, a little confusing.

Last Tuesday, Temple University canceled 8 a.m. classes. Out of concern for the safety of their students and faculty, administrators announced a two-hour delay because of the icy road conditions created by freezing rain.

SEPTA was running on (or close to) schedule and driving conditions were slippery — but manageable.

It was barely a blip on Hurricane Schwartz’s radar compared to yesterday’s storm.

Full disclosure: I’m invested in weather-related decisions at Temple. I teach there twice a week. I also spent four years commuting an hour each way while I was an undergrad.

While Temple administrators aren’t alone in their poor decisions — Penn also opened at regular time — my personal connection to the school has certainly influenced my opinion.

But I’m not alone in my annoyance.

Temple University is trending on Philadelphians’ Twitter accounts right now. While some Tweets mention love for the Owls basketball team or Foursquare check-ins at the campus gym, the current theme is one of disgust.

“Temple University administration has no care for their students! There was in some areas up to 18in snowfall and not even a delay!” one user writes.

“I’d pay to watch Univ. President Ann Weaver-Hart walk to class in this excuse for a clean-up on campus,” says another.

So why did officials choose to open the school?

Executive Vice President, CFO and Treasurer Tony Wagner released this statement:

There have been a number of inquiries regarding Temple’s decision to open for normal operations today, Jan. 27, 2011.
The decision to remain open was made early this morning following an on-site review of the campus, the ongoing weather forecast and other information available through media outlets and our contacts at SEPTA, the City of Philadelphia and other colleges and universities. An important consideration was the fact that the snow had stopped at around 1 a.m. and Temple’s facilities and operations crews had worked overnight to clear the campuses.

At 2:30 p.m., the city is still trying to recover. Driving conditions are better — but not great. Only about half the city’s buses are running. Trolleys, trains, and subways are still experiencing delays. And Temple students trek to classes.

I can’t comment on the state of campus clean-up. With trolley and bus service suspended, I couldn’t even get there this morning.

UPDATE: Today, at 6:25 a.m. — the day after the storm — Temple declared at two-hour delay. Yesterday, students created a Facebook group to encourage at least 5,000 students to sign an online petition asking the university to change its inclement weather policy