Student petition calls on UVM admin to give leave day back to employees who called out during snowstorm


Stephan Toljan/Vermont Cynic

A UVM Physical Plant employee plows snow with a pickup truck as students navigate around him, Feb. 8. UVM’s snow removal equipment is housed under the old bleachers at Centennial Field.

A UVM student is calling on the administration to give faculty and staff  who took a personal or sick day due to a snowstorm that day back.

On Feb. 7 the Cynic broke the news that UVM would remain open despite “difficult driving conditions,” according to a Feb. 6 email sent to UVM deans, directors and staff, from Gary Derr, vice president of operations and public safety.

Derr stated in his email all employees who call out will have to use available leave time, if their supervisor approves it.

“Employees are expected to work as scheduled and directed, unless their absence is authorized,” Derr’s email stated. “Supervisors and managers have the ability to deny any request that would interfere with the University’s business operations (e.g. snow removal, de-icing).”

After junior Allyson Werner read the Cynic’s article, Derr’s statements didn’t sit well with her, she said.

“I was like ‘yeah no that’s not okay,’” Werner said. “The weather was crazy and I knew some of my professors commute two hours just to get here.”

In response, Werner started a petition that morning on and by the morning of Feb. 9 it had over 100 signatures, she said.

On Feb. 7, Burlington saw slick and slushy roads, heavy snowfall and gusty winds at times, according to the National Weather Service.

At 12:45 p.m. President Suresh Garimella declared a “state of campus of emergency,” and all buildings, except dining halls, closed by 1:30 p.m. according to a UVM CATAlert.

All schools in Chittenden County, including Burlington School District and Champlain College, were closed Feb. 7.

Although UVM did close, Werner said the decision to open at all was dangerous. She has not heard anything regarding if employees that took time off will be given that day back.

“You shouldn’t be required to take one of your days off that you worked your ass off, just so you don’t die,” she said. “It was crazy.”

UVM Spokesperson Enrique Corredera stated in a Feb. 7 email that the University had been monitoring the storm closely but news that state offices were closing was helpful to guide the decision to close.

“Toward late morning today the forecast for this afternoon and evening changed dramatically, calling for the storm to intensify starting at 2 p.m. until about 10 p.m,” Corredera stated. “The forecast called for upward of 2 inches of snow per hour during that period, which makes it impossible for grounds crews to keep roadways, walkways and parking lots clear for safe transit.”

UVM did not close earlier because the University was using the most up to date information about the conditions that was available, Corredera stated.

“By the time it became known that the storm would be intensifying, starting at 2 p.m., employees who work during the morning and afternoon were already on campus,” the email stated.

The last time UVM closed campus was Mar. 14, 2017, which was during spring break.