The current winter—like many before it—has been an active one. As one might expect in Troy, there have been both 40 degree days and storms leaving over six inches of snow. Troy’s unique weather presents no end of safety issues, and RPI is tasked with keeping everyone who crosses campus safe. Keeping pathways clear of both snow and ice is a difficult task, but Rensselaer does a great job. Throughout the season, RPI’s roads and sidewalks have been consistently clearer than the surrounding areas.
Part of RPI’s strategy in keeping pathways manageable is closing down auxiliary staircases. This often makes sense; the stairs leading from the ’86 Field to the Hassan Quad are not part of a critical pathway, and one can easily walk around. However, pathways are sealed off at the first threat of snow—often in mid-October or November—and not re-opened until mid-April. The Poly staff wonders why the Institute even bothered building this new staircase if it is only open during three out of the eight months classes are in session.
Sometimes, pathway closings actually result in a decrease in student safety. RPI blocks off a few sets of stairs on the path from campus to the Approach, which seems like a trivial waste of resources. Blocking these stairs forces students to walk on the more perilous road next to the path.
RPI has taken action on several student concerns regarding snow clearing. One example occurred in 2010, when Environment and Site Services switched from a liquid chemical to the more conventional salt they currently use. Additionally, the pathway directly next to the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies has recently reopened, so students are no longer cut off as they try to travel across campus from 15th St. The Poly is glad changes have been made.
Finally, The Poly would like to see the Institute be more environmentally-focused in its efforts. While the chemical rocks the school spreads on sidewalks are quite effective, they can also be harmful to the environment in mass quantities. A possible alternative that other schools utilize is simple gravel. Although gravel does not actually reduce or prevent ice, it increases traction and still allows for safe travel while having minimized environmental impact. In conclusion, we would like to commend RPI’s efficient walkway-clearing mechanisms but would like to point out that efficient or safer paths are often closed.