Cornell Dining faces confusion as some workers show up as Cornell delays to close campus because of the storm.

Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell Dining faces confusion as some workers show up as Cornell delays to close campus because of the storm.

February 13, 2020

Friday Snow Day Cancellation Sparks Confusion Among Cornell Dining Employees

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In the middle of Friday’s snowstorm, scores of full-time employees and student workers made routine treks to their respective dining rooms and cafes.

But after the University delayed closing the campus until late morning, Cornell Dining was forced to adapt its operating hours and compensate those who did make it to campus — some of whom were left stranded for the night.

A full-time Cornell Dining employee, who requested to remain anonymous, left her home at 4:30 a.m. on Friday to arrive early for her opening shift on Central Campus. By the time the University closed and TCAT bus services were canceled, she and many of her co-workers were stuck on campus for more than five hours.

The employee told The Sun that she would have preferred an earlier notification and more coordination with the bus schedule.

“I’m elderly,” she said. “So walking on campus, I’m thinking ‘Great, if I fall, I’m going to break something,’ then what happens? They have to take that into consideration too.”

Those who did not make it to work were still compensated for missing their shift, and after noon, employees present for their shifts were compensated 1.5 times hourly pay.

A North Campus employee drove his usual 30 miles to campus for a night shift and commented on the overtime pay, saying that had it been earlier in the day he “wouldn’t have risked it.”

Another full-time Central Campus employee who relies on TCAT for transportation, stayed to help with dinner service in the dining halls on Friday night. To accommodate poor road conditions and canceled transportation, the University offered employees housing at the Statler Hotel or in the residence halls for the night, according to Paul Muscente, associate director of Cornell Dining.

However, she said she felt the situation could have been avoided entirely had Cornell — like other area schools — taken a more proactive approach in handling the inclement weather.

“They need to be more vigilant about when to close, because we have to worry about our safety,” the employee said. “A lot of people live far, like 45 minutes, an hour away, and traveling in that snow is really rough and it’s dangerous.”

Student workers also found themselves caught in the snow day confusion, arriving for morning shifts even though classes had already been canceled.

Anna Winikow ’22, an employee at Rusty’s in Uris Hall, arrived at her 11:30 a.m. shift from her off-campus house, only to stay 30 minutes before Rusty’s followed the rest of campus in closing for the day.

“We had to throw a lot of food away,” Winikow said. “I think, financially, if classes are canceled, there’s not going to be a lot of customers.”

Some unused items were redistributed to open eateries or given away to customers, Muscente, said, adding that some slower retail locations made less food in anticipation of a quieter business day.

Risley student managers Amari Williams and Abigail Swanson found it easier to plan for food waste during lunch service, but were unable to staff the dinner shift.

“We were pretty busy at lunch, and we hadn’t started dinner preparations before our closing was announced, so we had minimal food waste,” Williams and Swanson wrote to The Sun in an email.

While Thursday night forecasts accurately predicted Friday’s snowstorm, Muscente told The Sun that Cornell’s dining operations strive to adapt to Ithaca’s often tough weather conditions.

“Each time our operations are affected by weather is slightly different, whether or not the University officially closes,” Muscente said in an email. “Each time is an opportunity to learn what we can do differently.”