It is about time Yale University gave priority to the health and safety of its students and employees rather than its bottom line. Amid forecasts of as much as 18 inches of snow in New Haven, Yale predictably insisted it would remain open last Thursday. Any employee who chose to stay home due to the hazardous weather conditions would have to use a day of their paid time off. Thursday’s snowstorm was so bad the Yale shuttle service was closed for the entire day. Still, Yale expected employees to show up for work and students to get to their classes, even if it involved long walks on icy sidewalks and streets or crossing roads in wind and storm.
I drove to work Thursday morning and arrived at my usual time. The roads were still quite navigable. It was obvious most people were staying home, because traffic was almost nonexistent. In a department of almost 70 employees, I was one of a dozen or so who came to work. It wasn’t long before the city of New Haven announced all CT Transit bus services would be suspended at noon. Yale soon followed with an announcement of early dismissal of most staff and cancellation of classes at the same time. How generous, how thoughtful, when the damage had already been done. Yet it was still a successful day for Yale, because most employees had to use a vacation day and only the small percentage who braved the elements by getting to work would be paid fully for working a half day or less without using PTO.
Between the time I drove to work and noon, when I left for home, the weather conditions had gotten much worse and the roads were dicey. Yet how else was I to get home without driving my car? Taking a bus wasn’t an option. I got home only to find it was impossible for me to enter the driveway of my condo complex due to snow buildup. Still, I made the attempt and ended up stuck. This 64-year-old then spent 20 minutes shoveling snow trying to work himself free. Eventually a neighbor came to my rescue and helped me get unstuck, but trying to get my car to its garage was impossible. I then drove around in circles trying to find a place to temporarily park my car. Finally, after three hours, the snow plows made parking accessible at the public school near my home.
All my sick leave and PTO is usually reserved for medical issues. For that reason I avoid using PTO if I can. I recently used four PTO days for my first vacation in 14 years of working at Yale. It was a reward for myself, making up for a planned trip I had to cancel when I unexpectedly got a cancer diagnosis in October 2015. I couldn’t be more grateful to Yale for my health benefits, including short- and long-term disability, which alleviated my getting through radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. I just hope Yale doesn’t force me to get through another snowstorm.
Larry Heiman is a catalogue librarian at Yale. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .