Campus News

Faculty, staff keep university operational despite weather

Snow 2014-h. staff clearing
From left

As students and Athens residents flocked outside to play in the snow, some UGA employees continued working despite the winter weather earlier this month. Even with the campus closed Feb. 11-13, some UGA units went above and beyond during the chilly week. 

“I want to express appreciation to those who worked, despite the weather, to keep our operations in good shape and to keep our many important efforts from losing momentum,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said in an email to faculty, staff and students. “Across the wide variety of university functions, staff telecommuted from home and kept their jobs up-to-date and operating well. There were many offices where I’m sure the clients with whom they work were not even aware we were officially closed.”

Employees in the Facilities Management Division braced the elements to clear roads, scrape sidewalks and secure building steps throughout campus. Facilities Management also had a number of maintenance personnel who stayed on campus to handle building

To help those staff members staying on campus, the Georgia Center for Continuing Education kept its doors open even as snow, sleet and ice fell. 

“We housed a big group of the Physical Plant employees who were on campus so they could respond to anything,” said Bill Crowe, director for the Georgia Center. 

Crowe said 33 Georgia Center employees also remained on the job to help those staying at the hotel and conference center during the storm. 

“It’s hard on our employees because it takes them away from their families, but it’s a good service to the other employees,” he said.  “It is a lot of extra work, and I appreciate their willingness to help not only us but the university.”

An Enterprise Information Technology Services staff member also stayed at the Georgia Center to service the Boyd Data Center and keep it running 24/7. The data center is the backbone of many of the mission-critical computational resources at the university such as the campus network and servers for information systems. Extra precautions also were taken to ensure the data center stayed operational.

“To prepare for the winter storm, the staff at the Boyd Data Center moved emergency cooling equipment in the event the facility lost power,” said Timothy M. Chester, vice president for information technology. “Without cooling equipment, the servers in the data center risk overheating and causing damage to the equipment. We also shut down some of the servers running noncritical jobs in advance. It’s safer to properly turn off those servers rather than wait for a sudden power failure.”

Also on campus, the UGA Police Department patrolled and secured the buildings under difficult circumstances. Officers kept an eye out for any dangers and aided many people on campus who were in need.

During the snowfall, staff in the payroll department worked to ensure that the payroll scheduled for the week of Feb. 10 was processed without delay. Human Resources had benefits staff members on call and worked with several individuals to resolve health insurance issues during the three days as well.

The UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital remained open throughout the snowstorm but with a reduced staff, focusing mainly on its 24-hour emergency and critical care services as well as on previously arranged appointments for cases that were too urgent to be rescheduled. 

 “I am so proud of how our faculty, staff and students handled the situation,” said Ron Stewart, a hospital administrator. “Everyone had a great attitude and worked together to ensure that we were able to continue to offer excellent care to our patients despite the inclement weather.” 

Other animal care professionals in various campus units helped ensure the continuity of care for animals on campus. 

For students living on campus, Residence Life staff members responded to student needs as they arose. They also provided a variety of impromptu and spontaneous programs and activities as well as collected and removed trash when it began to accumulate after two days. Some building service workers also volunteered to come to campus Feb. 13 to clean bathrooms in some residence halls. 

 “All of these staff went above and beyond the call of their jobs to provide a positive and productive living and learning environment during the inclement weather,” said Gerard Kowalski, executive director for University Housing. “I am particularly proud of their positive attitude, strong work ethic and genuine desire to help students.”

All dining halls were open and providing hot meals to the campus community during the university closure.

 “We know our role on campus is vital, and we want to be there for the students,” said Bryan Varin, associate director of meal plan operations for UGA Food Services.

Despite the weather, the dining halls were about as crowded as usual with customers, according to Varin. Workers managed that load at about half-staff. Some of the Food Services staff, including most of management, spent the night at the Georgia Center instead of traveling home.

“When the university closes, we still have an obligation and a duty to continue to feed our costumers,” Varin said. “We have a focus and a priority on students, taking care of their needs even if it means sacrificing the need for ourselves.”

At the University Health Center, counseling and psychiatric staff members were available to handle any student crises during the storm. Also under the Division of Student Affairs, student supervisory and aquatics staff members worked in the Ramsey Student Center to support intercollegiate athletics practices in preparation for the SEC swimming and diving championships, held Feb. 17-23 at Gabrielsen Natatorium. Some full-time staff members also worked Feb. 11 to ensure the Ramsey Center was secured and prepared for the winter weather. 

With the cold weather and poor driving conditions, many on-campus events were canceled or postponed. Campus Reservations and Event and Technical Services, both part of the Division of Student Affairs, worked during the snow days to reschedule the 135 meetings and events that were scheduled those days. 

Other campus-related activities that continued despite the snow included: fundraising and development efforts, the ConnectUGA project team meetings, the administering of campus construction projects by the Architects Office and Risk Management staff responding to any situations requiring their support.

With student learning as a top priority, the university is helping faculty and students by providing two Saturdays designated for faculty use to make up some of the missed classes. March 22 will be available to make up Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes or labs, and March 29 will be available to make up Tuesday, Thursday classes or labs. 

A normal class schedule will be followed on those dates, and both classrooms and teaching labs will be open and available to interested faculty. Any staff support required for those days will be assigned as appropriate by supervisors. Faculty wishing to use the make-up Saturdays or schedule evening examinations should email Campus Reservations at Every effort will be made to schedule their make-up class in its regularly scheduled classroom or lab. 

The university also is encouraging faculty to employ the online learning platform, eLearningCommons, to assist them in providing supplemental materials, discussions and assignments. The Center for Teaching and Learning hosted two drop-in eLC and blended learning consultation sessions titled “Managing Course Adaptations after Inclement Weather” on Feb. 19 and 20. CTL faculty assisted faculty with locating online content, structuring online activities, configuring eLC tools and more.