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Here is a Q & A with James Chiavelli, Associate Vice President for Communications at Merrimack College, on the how the campus is dealing with the snow:


Jim Chiavelli

What has your reaction been to how the Merrimack community has dealt with the unprecedented amount of winter snowstorms this semester?

As President Hopey often says, Merrimack is truly a family.

It’s easier to act like a family when everything’s going as expected, but difficult times are the true test, and this campus has really come together — students especially. Almost everyone has reacted with patience, with a sense of shared purpose, and with a great deal of humor (yes, we follow social media, and yes, some of it does make us laugh, too). The general level of cooperation around things like plowing and late openings has been great. Employees have come in or stayed late without being asked, knowing that essential service have to continue.

What extra steps has the college had to take for removal of the snow on campus?

Facilities crews have been working long, long hours. We’ve hired more snow-removal contracting crews, including specialists for clearing roofs. And we’ve worked a lot more with students — Student Government Association has been a terrific partner, both in planning and in messaging — to try to get parking lots cleared, by having resident students move their cars around campus. It’s been an inconvenience at times, we realize, but it has by and large worked very well once folks get the idea that we’re all in this together.

Of course, dealing with this winter has gone far, far beyond snow removal. There have been outstanding efforts by police, Sodexo workers, residence life staff and library staff to provide service to students during college shutdowns. Faculty members have had to take extraordinary steps to deliver class material, and continue to explore ways to ensure educational outcomes for their students. We’ve begun a test program of parent newsletters, keeping them informed about campus operations and plans during storms, and they’ve been overwhelmingly thankful.

How much extra snowstorm budget has the college had to spend on the storms compared to previous winters?

The honest answer is: We don’t know yet. It’s easy to say “a lot more than previous winters” without fear of contradiction, but the president’s charge to Facilities has been “do what you need to do.” We have without question used a lot more employee overtime, a lot more contractors, a lot more gasoline and diesel for vehicles, a lot more salt than anyone on campus can remember, but we won’t have a full handle on these numbers until a bit after the last snowfall — which we’re all hoping is very, very, very soon.

Merrimack has dealt with these storms in a professional and as convenient as possible way. Everyone is hoping that the snow will reside but the way this winter has gone leads one to believe that we may not be out of the snow yet! As long as the Merrimack community stays and works together we will get through this vigorous winter. Although it may seem far away, spring is just around the corner!

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