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Observer Editorial: To the unsung heroes of the snow day

| Friday, February 11, 2022

Last Tuesday night, much of the tri-campus went to sleep with fingers crossed. Then, at 5:42 a.m. Wednesday morning, Notre Dame students received a highly anticipated email:

“ND Alert: Due to winter weather, Notre Dame is closed today, February 2. Classes – including virtual – are cancelled…”

After a winter storm dropped 11.2 inches of snow on South Bend and an estimated 8.5 to 12.5 inches on Mishawaka, Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross all closed — and the snow day was on. Classes for Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross went online, and with all the unexpected extra time, students were still able to sleep in, catch up on homework or plan fun activities in the snow. For a little while, everyone was able to take a breather and enjoy the glorious winter weather.

But let’s not forget about the rest of the message sent to the Notre Dame community, which read: “Only personnel whose job functions have been designated essential to the safe operation of the campus should report to work.”

From all of us on The Observer Editorial Board, we want to say thank you to all essential workers in our tri-campus.

Thank you for laboring tirelessly to keep our community operating at its best. These staff members are unsung heroes, and we’d like to display how impactful they are, day in and day out.

Notre Dame Landscape Services was front and center during the storm. They are typically responsible for maintaining the trees, shrubs and flowers across the University’s 1,250-acre campus. But they also ensure students can move around campus in the winter. When it snows, they clear the accumulation from over 27 miles of walkways, apply ice melt and continue to service the walkways as needed throughout the storm. Observer staff members leaving the office early Wednesday morning saw them hard at work, and students around campus could look out the window throughout the day to see them continuing this important job.

Landscape Services has been there to help even before the snow started to fall. Two weeks into the semester, the unit sent out a snow and ice safety guide, which includes practices and tools to care for students and staff as they travel around campus in hazardous conditions. 

Meanwhile, Building Services work in the 150 Notre Dame campus buildings across more than 10 million gross square feet, completing all the custodial tasks that keep facilities clean and running smoothly. They clean offices and conference rooms, scrub and finish floors, empty recycling and trash receptacles and wash windows, among various other difficult tasks. During the snowstorm, custodians and contractors cleared snow from building entrances during their shifts. 

Students who live in residence halls or frequent academic and athletic buildings at Notre Dame interact with Building Services every day and are met with a strong sense of commitment and overwhelming positivity. Without the necessary tasks these people complete, our campus experience would simply not be the same.   

Campus Dining employees are the final group we want to highlight for their work during the snow day and every day. The Observer reported in November that the division was feeling the effects of a nationwide labor shortage. Despite this, employees with full-time status average 30 hours per week, and student employees juggle their responsibilities at the dining halls with their class schedules. Members of the dining hall staff work hard every day to ensure the people of the tri-campus are fed. 

When several food options in the community closed, tri-campus dining halls were still operating during the storm because of the devotion of their workers. Campus Dining staff traveled through the storm to care for students during the breakfast, lunch and dinner rushes. Additionally, we want to commend Notre Dame for shortening the dining hall hours to ensure staff got home safely.

Essential workers perform so many important, yet often underappreciated tasks in all corners of the tri-campus, but we are happy to see they got to enjoy the snow day as well. Notre Dame’s office of public affairs and communications shared a gallery from University photographer Matt Cashore depicting some of the activities staff participated in, as well as the fun students had thanks to their efforts. 

Please take the time to express gratitude to landscapers, custodians, dining hall workers and everyone else in between who allow us to call this tri-campus our home.

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