Univ. should invest more in snow removal

January 23, 2015

Though global warming continues to worsen and our climate is becoming more and more unstable, no one should be surprised that every year around this time it becomes incredibly cold. Our roads and walkways become icy, and maintenance shifts from mulching gardens and trimming plants to making sure our roadways are cleared and safe. While our landscaping always seems perfectly manicured in the summer, and every autumn day our maintenance workers are out clearing leaves, today our paths are full of black ice and piled snow. Unlike the rest of the year, the maintenance done in winter is much less organized or standard, and that leaves our students in danger of serious injury or worse.


Unfortunately, a simple walk around our campus reveals serious failures in our ice removal duties. Instead of having clean paths we have frequent snow drifts and ice sheets that create difficulties for anyone trying to cross campus. Although some areas of the paths might be clear, one can turn a corner and unexpectedly careen into a sheet of black ice stretching out before you. It isn’t that the ice removal on campus is consistently bad, but instead that it is uneven. Because one never knows exactly where they could encounter ice, every step becomes dangerous, and the potential for serious injury abounds.


My mother works in high school athletics, and while I never quite picked up any physical skills from spending so much time around athletes, I’ve certainly seen the way these types of injuries can affect everyday life. Broken arms, legs and wrists can be pretty painful and make life much more difficult. Especially on a campus like Brandeis’, with so little accessibility to the handicapped, living with a physical injury can harm one’s quality of life for weeks. Even worse than that, however, are the possible neurological injuries one can sustain. A slip on the ice can easily lead to a concussion, and even a mild one can lead to neurological problems, such as an inability to focus, dizziness and extreme tiredness. These issues can directly interfere with a student’s ability to succeed in college, and can sometimes cause students to receive lower grades, fail or even drop out. No student should be excluded from college because of something as innocent as freshly fallen snow, but without proper ice removal these injuries are a real possibility.


At this point some of you may be convinced that I’m overreacting and that it isn’t possible for anything seriously bad to occur. While I wish that was the case, far too many injuries occur every year on icy paths like ours. Last weekend, while walking along the path outside of Sherman, a first-year student slipped on some frozen bricks and hit his head on the sidewalk. At first, he tried to shake it off, but after the bleeding refused to stop and he began getting dizzy, his roommate decided to call BEMCO. What emerged was an hours-long marathon of tests, hospital visits and disturbing diagnoses as the extent of his traumatic brain injury was measured. At first doctors believed his neck might be broken, but after another hospital transfer and more tests, it was ruled a major concussion.


When a walk across campus can end in multiple hospital bills, serious injury and major trauma, we need to take action. If we can’t be safe on our own roads, then we can’t be safe anywhere. The costs aren’t especially high—with a little more investment in our facilities department we can keep our roads much clearer. The problem here, fortunately is simple to solve. All we need to do is really invest in our safety, before the next fall really does break someone’s neck.

In fact, when it comes to safety, this is perhaps the most important time of the year.

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