Snow removal should focus on campus

By By James Sewell

By James Sewell

The recent budget difficulties have taken their toll on just about every department across campus, and the department of facilities management is no exception. Although, with daytime temperatures in the 40s, it seems as though we’re in the midst of an early spring, winter will return one day soon. Unfortunately, the cuts have reduced the amount of salt and ice melt available for crews to distribute across the vast network of sidewalks and roads on campus, not to mention limiting the hours they can work.

The situation includes an interesting item that caught my eye: The department also takes care of U President Michael Young’s and Vice President Lorris Betz’s snow removal needs8212;at their residences.

In addition to their handsome six-figure salaries, they get a U crew to shovel their sidewalks and driveways? Why is the U providing this service to employees who could easily pay for it out of pocket? It is because these men have been granted compensation packages that include things such as a house and the resources to maintain them.

The rationale for such generous deals is that a university has to compete with private industry for top leadership talent, and since these leaders could (or should, ostensibly) be driven more by financial incentive than any actual heartwarming instinct to preside over broadening a student’s intellectual and emotional horizons within the higher educational system, they would choose the private sector every time, because it pays better.

But back to snow removal.

The campus can be a treacherous place in winter, and in my younger years, it was a spectator sport just watching certain areas of campus for the inevitable ignominious slip and fall that was bound to happen to some unfortunate soul. This was back when the budget was healthy and hale.

Now I’m always on alert for my karmic comeuppance for all the times I laughed at someone else’s bad luck, since it’s a rare thing these days to encounter a path to class that is unencumbered with ice and snow even days after a storm, and anyone can be a victim.

This isn’t the grounds crew’s fault8212;periods of very cold weather back in December gave the snow time to compact and harden, making it hard to break up. Also, they’re doing the best they can with limited resources and hours. But in times of limited resources, resource allocation becomes much more important, and sending crews to these guys’ homes is a waste.

If Young and Betz need someone to shovel their doorsteps and driveways, they can pay for a private contractor (i.e., the neighbor kid, Homer Simpson’s Mr. Plow, etc.) out of their own pockets. And if they slip and fall because of uncleared sidewalks? Well, rest assured their health plans are much, much nicer than yours and mine, if we’re even able to afford a plan.

But the second a student slips on campus and breaks his or her coccyx, the resulting lawsuit could cost the U much more than a ton of ice melt and the labor to spread it around.

It’s hard to believe that another storm will even hit Salt Lake City this winter, but when it does, will the administration be worried more about getting Young’s driveway cleared, or will it worry about the thousands of students and staff up on campus, and the taxpayers whose money has been paying for this benefit?

As the budget crisis gets worse, and it seems likely it will, tough choices have to be made. Will Young and Betz make a small sacrifice for the good of the many? Sure, giving up private residential snow removal won’t solve the larger problem the facilities management department is facing, but small symbolic gestures such as this would at least indicate that these men have their priorities straight.

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James Sewell