In the wake of a polar vortex, subzero temperatures and snowy, slick roads forced the Grand Valley State University campuses to close for days on end last week. The hazardous outdoor conditions prompted officials at GVSU to cancel the entire week of events and classes for the first time ever and, while the community was urged to stay inside, many had no choice but to face the cold. In fact, university essential staff (which includes dozens of student workers) still reported to campus last week to shoulder the work between groundskeeping, maintenance, student resources, and dining.
Winter Storm Jayden may have disbanded classes for the week but it did not demobilize the positive, collective impact of the “Laker Effect.”
Quite the contrary, GVSU’s sense of community only seemed to be emphasized by the poor weather conditions, with essential staff helping students, students helping staff, Laker helping Laker. The mass accumulation of snow, which continued to blanket most of Michigan from Monday to Friday, proved difficult to plow and drive through. GVSU groundskeepers worked hard to remove the snow as quickly as it came, eventually asking for assistance from on-campus students to move their cars from the overcrowded, under-plowed lots. Students in lots across campus could be seen digging each other out of the compact snow, with large groups teaming up to push out trapped cars.
Indoors, students working for the Mary Idema Pew Library and at the IT desk were on call and on reserve to assist the needs of the community. From blackboard issues to computer malfunctions, they were prepared to lend a hand.
The full week of snow days also resulted in the cancellation of President’s Ball, much to the dismay of the Laker community and the Office of Student Life.
“Due to campus being closed and classes canceled, we were forced to cancel the President’s Ball for students’ safety,” said Associate Director of Student Life LeaAnn Tibbe. “Our view of the cancellation was that it was better to be safe than sorry with such bad weather and roads.”
While many students took to social media to express their disappointment, all was not lost. Campus dining and residence life managed to team up and put on ‘Res Ball’ in the Kleiner Commons on Allendale campus. The small, spontaneous event gave students on campus a little taste of what President’s Ball could have been. Several groups of students also attempted to make up for the lost event, by hosting small gatherings in their own homes or heading to downtown Grand Rapids for a night of fun and dancing.
Due to the cancellation, more than 500 hot meals meant for the dinner at President’s Ball could have been wasted. However, the Office of Student Life boxed up the meals and distributed them for free to people in the Grand Rapids area affected by the polar vortex. While the disappointment for the event’s cancellation is still being felt, GVSU’s ability to make the best of a bad situation has eased much of the tension.
In the end, GVSU officials made the smart call to cancel classes to keep students and faculty safe, inside and off the roads. The week off also posed an opportunity for the community that they accepted without question: a chance to help a fellow Laker in need. From plowing from dawn till dusk to pushing cars out of the snow, GVSU proved that even in the worst circumstances, the Laker Effect is still intact.