By David Kriz

The beginning of a spring semester at KU typically brings challenges of inclement weather—as the student body is keen to understand. What might not be so well understood is the process by which administrative decisions are made regarding university operations during such weather.

The key individual involved in these decisions is Jerry Silberman, vice president for Administration & Finance and the chair of the Emergency Management Team at KU. Silberman makes recommendations to the president during severe weather; he is a deciding factor for the school’s cancellations and other preventative measures.

He described his role, saying, “When there is a pending weather situation overnight, I work with our facilities team to monitor the weather forecast, the conditions of the campus and the potential impact on the university community, in an effort to come to a decision shortly after 5 a.m.”

Such timely decisions can only be made with the consideration of a wide variety of factors affecting all people involved in the daily function of the university. With respect to this perspective, Silberman said, “We have to consider on-campus residents, commuters—including faculty and staff who provide services.” He also emphasized the importance of maintaining consistent instruction for the student body with minimal interruptions to the academic calendar.

However, the decisions are not without their critics—as Silberman recognizes. “There are times that we remain open when our students, faculty and staff may not feel comfortable travelling.” With that in mind, he encourages individuals to make choices that they are most comfortable with, and to inform their instructors or supervisors if they decide against commuting.

“Safety is always a primary consideration. For a variety of reasons, safety of our students, faculty and staff is always foremost when making these decisions.”

Silberman described the precautions that are taken when the university is to be open. “We ensure that walkways and entrances for the physically disabled are accessible. At the same time we have staff clearing primary roadways and parking lots to get them ready for opening.”

Additionally, Silberman believes that the university’s snow and ice management plan has made significant progress in recent years. He identified two major factors for this as “better traffic monitoring technology” and constantly updates the information from Internet sources. Silberman looks to see this progress continue. “We’ll continue to review our snow and ice management plan and hopefully weather forecasts will get a bit more accurate!”


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