When more than 19 inches of snow fell on New Haven Wednesday, the University worked to keep essential operations up and running — but administrators say they sent community-wide notifications about closures and emergency plans too late.
The University Emergency Operations Team, which includes University Secretary Linda Lorimer and Deputy Secretary for the University Martha Highsmith, spent much of Tuesday organizing the snow efforts, Highsmith said. Overall, Lorimer and Highsmith said they are happy with the speed and efficacy of the University’s snow response — but the team may need to reconsider its communication and class cancellation policies.
“In hindsight, I think I should have communicated with the campus sooner about the possibility that we might have to suspend some services like the library and the shuttle,” Lorimer said, adding that she was still impressed with the “Herculean” efforts of the entire Yale staff to ensure that most University services were up and running.
The team did not add information about closures and transportation changes to the front page of Yale’s website until 11:15 a.m., and did not send a Universitywide e-mail with the same information until 11:40 a.m.
While individual professors were left to notify students of class cancellations, the Emergency Operations Team could not make its own campuswide announcement until representatives from campus departments — ranging from Payne Whitney Gymnasium to academic departments — provided updates about their own personnel and logistics. Yale shuttles were cancelled for much of the day, impacting faculty and student transit.
Highsmith cancelled her own Wednesday class at the Divinity School, “Pastoral Leadership and Church Administration,” per the recommendation of Dean Harold Attridge. Still, Highsmith said she did not see why a professor who lives close to the University would need to cancel an undergraduate class since most students live close to campus.
“When you have a significant residential population, you can’t close the University,” Highsmith said. “But you can cancel classes.”
In the past, the University, has relied on individual faculty members to make the decision about whether or not to hold a class, Lorimer said. She added that she anticipates discussions with Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard to consider whether this is the best approach for a major storm.
After starting advance preparation for Wednesday meals this Monday, Yale Dining staff maintained regular meal service in all residential college dining halls, Lorimer said. Yale Dining estimated that it served more lunches than usual Wednesday, she added. The Yale Police Department and Yale Security operated at normal capacity throughout the day, Highsmith said, but Yale Security shuttle service was suspended from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday morning when roads became impassable.
Despite the heavy snowfall, no major weather-related incidents were reported in New Haven as of 5:35 p.m Wednesday, said city spokeswoman Elyse Lyons.