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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis facilities hold strong through blizzard

Published: February 14, 2013
Section: Featured, News, Top Stories

This past weekend, Nemo hit Waltham and many other New England towns hard, burying homes and cars under nearly two feet of snow. In any extreme weather condition, Brandeis, like all universities, has the unique responsibility of acting quickly to ensure that students are both safe and fed through inclement weather.

Not only did Brandeis have to plan accordingly to make sure that it would have an adequate supply of food for the blizzard, it also had to staff all necessary dining facilities and facilitate a clean up effort across campus. Aaron Benos, Brandeis Director of Dining Services was in charge of organizing a core crew of dining workers this past weekend, in addition to driving several workers through the snow to campus.

“It was our priority to open Sherman, Usdan and the POD, which we were able to do. We also were able to open the library,” Benos said. “Some of the managers and cooks including myself stayed overnight in the faculty club lodge rooms and at local hotels so we could be here Friday night and early Saturday morning. I was able to pick up six employees who live in Waltham. Having four-wheel drive came in handy.”

According to Benos, the dining facility employees have an arrangement in the collective bargaining agreement that determines when they will work if school is closed, and are therefore not paid extra to work during extreme weather conditions. Blizzard Nemo was no exception. Benos explained, however, that Aramark and Brandeis do provide incentives to employees who go above and beyond their everyday duties.

In order to prepare for the incoming snow, Brandeis made sure to order enough food to last the weekend, thus avoiding any shortages on days when transportation would be especially difficult. Brandeis also took care of the hotel costs and taxi fares to help employees arrive to work. According to Benos, in the 12 years he has worked at Brandeis, through hurricanes, water main breaks and blizzards, dining facilities on campus have always remained open.

“When [the blizzard] ended, [I knew] the team came together and performed tirelessly and heroically. I am proud to be associated with such a group of dedicated individuals. We have a great bunch of folks here. It was also great working along with facilities, Peter Shields, Dennis Finn and all those shoveling who got us plowed out. Those folks worked unbelievably. So it was memorable to see how all operations on campus came together as we usually do in crises situations,” Benos said.

In addition to providing regular meals to students on campus throughout the blizzard, Brandeis also oversaw the non-stop shoveling and plowing efforts of facility workers and private companies for more than three days of work. A huge effort was put forth by all involved to clear campus roadways, sidewalks and parking lots during the snow and after the snow had stopped.

According to Peter Shields, Director of Facility Services, it is impossible to know the total cost of Nemo-related clean up efforts at this point, as they are ongoing.

“Unfortunately, the costs will be high because of the amount of labor and equipment that was required (and is still required) to provide safe access throughout the campus. Snow management is a combined effort with Facilities Services staff and external vendors,” Shields said.

Brandeis’ shoveling efforts even benefitted those living off campus in graduate student housing, including Laura Mandel ’13.

“The roads and the basic part of the parking lot was shoveled pretty quickly, the same timeline as the Mods. I was actually pretty impressed with their snow blowing through the paths in between buildings in Grad. I appreciate having the Crystal Shuttle since the BranVan doesn’t like this weather, but the drivers have not been very good so there is a lot of waiting around,” Mandel said.