Reports of weather-related injuries raise questions concerning the University’s response to wintry conditions

Only about one and a half inches of snow fell in Jamaica last Wednesday, according to That measurement, however, belies the impact that the wintry mix that bombarded the New York City area on Valentine’s Day had on the Queens campus of St. John’s University.

The mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain made roadways treacherous around the city, and turned the St. John’s campus into a hazard for drivers and pedestrians alike.

“I think we had three of four [accidents] on the day of the storm, where either students or staff fell and had minor injuries because of the snow and ice,” said Thomas Lawrence, vice president of Public Safety, adding that “we had one or two the day after.”

One St. John’s employee confirmed that she was involved in an accident on Wednesday morning.

“I was about to walk into St. John Hall, and I just slipped and fell on the ice,” she said, adding that she dislocated and fractured her shoulder in the accident.

“It was a freak thing… an accident,” she continued. “What can you do?”

Some students, however, believe that the University should have done more to prevent incidents like these.

“The day of the storm it was horrendous,” said sophomore Ernesto Papaleo. “The next day it was a little better, but I expected more from St. John’s.”

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed.
“As a result of the snow I twisted my ankle even though I had on proper footwear,” she said. “I think it is absolutely terrible and an utter disgrace that we pay a considerable amount of money not only to learn, but to assure that we are in a suitable environment to study, learn, research and hopefully, walk.”
Although classes were held on Wednesday despite the precipitation, all campuses of the University were closed at 2:30 p.m.

“Early in the day we didn’t have a problem [with the weather],” explained Director of Media Relations Dominic Scianna of why the University decided to hold classes. “The conditions here in Queens weren’t as bad as other boroughs and parts of the state.”

Scianna said that the final decision of whether or not to cancel classes is made by University Vice President James Pellow and Provost Dr. Julia Upton, RSM after consulting with the department of Public Safety. Neither could be reached for comment.

Scianna added that it was “the icy conditions, the slippery conditions in and around campus, but the driving conditions as well” that led to the University finally being closed.

Lawrence confirmed that driving conditions were a problem during the storm, even on campus.

“There were a couple of accidents in the parking lot,” he said.
Lawrence said that while the facilities department began the clean-up almost immediately after the snow began falling, it was difficult for them to keep up with the precipitation.
“The way it was coming down, it was tough to clean it up,” he said.

In the days since the storm, Public Safety has taken measures to protect students from the after-effects of the snowfall. One such precaution was to block certain entrances of some buildings and mark off areas along buildings with caution tape to keep students from being hit by falling snow and ice as it melted and fell off the roofs of the buildings, a problem that Lawrence said “certain buildings are more perceptible to.”

While some students say that the University could have, and should have, done more, others believe that the response was adequate.

“I think they did a good job,” said student Stephanie Paz. “The Public Safety officers were very helpful.”

Kay Fischer, a University employee who works in the office of the provost, blamed New York City for doing a poor job with the clean-up process.

“The city, I think, really showed poor judgement all around with this snowfall,” she said.

Lawrence remained hopeful that the University will learn from this encounter with the winter weather.

“Every storm we try to learn a little something,” he said.