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Snow poses difficulties to campus infrastructure

By Jake Greenberg

Section: Opinions

March 25, 2015

While no campus in New England has managed to avoid this winter’s below average temperatures and blizzard conditions, it seems that Brandeis’ grounds have experienced an excessively hefty toll from the accumulation of snow.

As the last of the snow melts, it is hard to imagine that there were over 100 inches of snow this year, 105.7 inches to be exact. Likewise, it is impossible for anyone who wasn’t on campus during the Blizzards of February Break, to understand that much of this snow actually accumulated in a matter of days. However, this near-record snow buildup did happen, and through salting, shoveling and plowing the roads and walkways, Brandeis persevered.

Unfortunately, the amazing work that Brandeis has done to keep the campus running whenever possible and to maintain its students’ safety has come at a cost to the grounds of the university.

One wouldn’t notice the damage unless they looked toward the ground, but as the snow melts the costs of snow removal to our grounds’ infrastructure is very clear. We have destroyed benches, walkways and staircases through inefficient removal practices, each of which will likely cost thousands of dollars to repair. These damages must be mended as a matter of student safety (an expense that will likely come directly from students’ tuition costs), but one has to wonder if such destruction could have been somehow prevented, even with the extreme onslaught of snow.

The primary way to prevent winter damage is by limiting the amount of salt used on roads and walkways. This is important because salt is known to be extremely corrosive, eating up cement and metal and damaging nearby plant life. While salt is meant to melt ice and prevent further accumulation, a simple alternative is sand, which is applied on top of ice to provide traction, and causes much less surface damage. Interestingly, many communities are using beet juice and other plant juices to bind salts to the road, thus reducing the amount that has to be poured. In addition, the runoff is less damaging to nearby grounds and is actually known to melt snow and ice at lower temperatures.

Of course neither sand nor salt mixes can prevent snow build-up that is well over two feet, as we’ve seen from the blizzards of February. Therefore, the campus should be more proactive in removing snow as it accumulates. This proactive removal process would prevent accumulations on concrete roadways, which are very sensitive to the melting and refreezing of snow piles. Currently there are huge depressions in the campus walkways, as a result of repeated snow accumulations. These depressions are inconvenient for many students in the spring months, as they are filling excessively with water and are thus becoming impassible.

In addition, it is clear that while the plows worked to clear the snow, they ignored the grounds themselves, as areas of turf have been torn up by Sherman, stairways have been completely destroyed and much of the snow has been placed indiscriminately on bushes and trees all around campus. Designating certain lots and spaces to place snow piles before the storm could have prevented this extensive damage. This method has been used at many Boston-area colleges, such as MIT, where one designated area of snow has become known as “the Alps of MIT,” because it is over 15 feet high and holds much of the snow from the campus. An additional benefit of these snow pileups is that they can be purposely placed away from campus buildings so students would be less likely to jump from their windows into hazardous snow banks below.

Overall, the campus should be more conscious of effective solutions for snow removal and prevent further damage in the future. While none of the damage caused by the snow cleanup was intentional, the problems are still apparent, and innovative approaches should be implemented to improve cleanup processes for the future. After all, this is Massachusetts, and I have no doubt that there will be much more snow for years to come.

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