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UB defends its decision to remain open

SUNY Buffalo State, Canisius, Daemen and D’Youville were among area colleges that canceled classes Wednesday due to the massive snowfall.

But the University at Buffalo did not, and that decision angered some students from the hard-hit Southtowns who were unable to get to UB’s campuses in Amherst and Buffalo’s University Heights neighborhood.

Sara DiNatale, editor of the student newspaper at UB, said The Spectrum received multiple complaints from students from Lancaster, Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Orchard Park and other towns who were “really upset” that the university did not cancel classes.

Trevor Sokolowski, a senior communication major from Lancaster, told The Spectrum there wasn’t “any doubt” UB should have canceled classes.

“I don’t know how it’s fair for anyone to drive in this stuff – that’s what was crazy to me,” he said. “They’re basically saying it’s all right to drive.”

Sokolowski said that on Tuesday, he saw snowplows trying to dig out fire trucks stuck outside his house in Lancaster.

“If the fire trucks can’t get out, how is my Chevy Cruze going to get out?” he said.

John DellaContrada, UB’s associate vice president for media relations, said the decision to hold classes and activities “was based on several factors and the input of officials from across the university who are responsible for student life and safety, academic scheduling, emergency management, athletics, human resources, facilities operations and campus infrastructure.”

He said the officials “discussed current weather conditions and forecasts throughout the region, the conditions of roads on- and off-campus, and scheduled academic and extracurricular activities.”

“Based on this information, and with the knowledge that most UB students, faculty and staff reside in communities that did not get heavy snow, the university made the decision to hold classes,” he said. “The fact that our campuses were operational and largely free of snow was another factor in the decision making.”

He added that about 2,100 UB students reside in areas affected by the snow or travel bans, while more than half of UB’s 30,000 students reside on-campus or in communities close to campus.

DellaContrada noted that UB told students, faculty and staff “that it is understood that not everyone will be able to travel to campus in inclement weather.”

He said it also advised them “to use their best judgment in assessing the risk of coming to campus and returning home based on individual circumstances.”

DellaContrada said the university understands the concerns of students who live in hart-hit areas.

“For any students unable to attend classes, this will be an excused absence,” he said. “We have asked these students to contact their professors and notify them of their absence due to the weather. Faculty will provide reasonable accommodations for all such absences, according to UB policy.”

He added that the university sent faculty an email “reminding them that any student who is unable to attend a regularly scheduled class or exam or complete assignments because of weather-related conditions should be offered reasonable accommodations for any missed academic work.”

Although the university did not cancel classes, the UB-Kent State football game scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed, and the teams were working to reschedule it. Pregame activities, including a concert by the Strictly Hip, were canceled.

UB canceled classes twice earlier this year during the January and March blizzards.