Thank you, Duke employeesThis month, spates of winter weather—including a snow storm three weeks ago and last week’s “Snowpocalypse”—have resulted in the most substantial snowfall in the Durham area in recent memory. Although perhaps not as severe as storms that hit the Northeast, the snow interrupted life on Duke’s campus—three consecutive days of classes were canceled and the much-anticipated Duke-UNC basketball game had to be postponed. But, unlike the City of Durham—which more or less completely shut down for several days—Duke launched a proactive and superb response to the unexpected weather.
Many of Duke’s staff members stuck around campus to oversee the University’s essential functions, and we would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to University staff and administrators. Duke’s employees—especially those who worked during the snow days—are integral members of the Duke community and, without them, the University would not be able to carry out most of its day-to-day functions. And yet, as students at a University that focuses primarily on excelling in research and teaching, we often take the contributions of Duke’s staff for granted.
First, we would like to acknowledge the residential staff, bus drivers, food workers, security personnel and maintenance workers who worked during the storm. Without them, the University would not have been able to provide basic services as snow began to blanket the roads and sidewalks. Students would have been forced to drive on dangerous, icy roads to get food, and campus roads and walkways would have been impassable. Second, we would like to thank the library staff for facilitating academic research despite class cancellations. Finally, we extend our gratitude to the hospital and medical school personnel, whose presence is essential for the health and safety of Duke, Durham and the region.
These acknowledgements are well-deserved under normal circumstances, but they are even more important now, given the sacrifices that many employees made so that they could come to work in the snow. Canceled classes allowed students to avoid treacherous roads and walkways. The multiple snow days also afforded many faculty members the opportunity to stay home with children who were unable to attend school due to school closings. Many essential staff, however, received none of these benefits. Instead of staying home with family, these employees came to Duke and, in doing so, played an integral role in ensuring the safety and comfort of students.
It is also necessary to thank administrators, whose planning laid the groundwork for the University’s quick and effective response to the weather. Given the infrequency of severe winter weather in North Carolina, it is not practical for Duke to purchase and maintain large quantities of expensive equipment, such as snowplows. However, the administration’s foresight in spreading sand and salt on campus surfaces and roadways went a long way towards mitigating snow-related risks. Moreover, all buildings on campus were kept heated, even though many households throughout the region lost power during the storm.
Duke’s administration often takes heat for being uncommunicative, but, during the storm, their communication proved to be exemplary. Online notifications and constant emails kept students, faculty and staff updated on important developments. For that and more, thank you Duke employees.