Emily Stehlik’s roommate called her crying Wednesday night. After studying in the Feinberg library, the walk to her car and the drive home brought her to tears. The ground was a sheet of ice on and off the Plattsburgh State campus.
Although Stehlik’s roommate came home safely that night, she could not drive her car up the steep driveway of their home on South Catherine Street. Neither Stehlik nor their other roommate could help their friend push her car for fear of falling on the icy ground.
So, at 10 p.m. Wednesday evening, Stehlik created a Change.org petition to ask PSUC administrators to cancel classes the next day due to unsafe weather conditions.
“All I could think is, if we’re having this problem [with] the ice off campus, then we can’t be the only ones,” Stehlik said.
The petition gained traction among the student community. Overnight, over 3,500 people had signed.
“While [PSUC] has a very low record of ever canceling classes, there are already students who are getting injured in these harsh conditions,” Stehlik wrote on the petition.
Stehlik did not have any early morning classes the next day, but she still felt personally unsafe need, wanting a safer commute when it comes to icy roads and sidewalks.
“In a matter of minutes, I was getting hundreds upon hundreds [of signatures],” Stehlik said. “I started to see it on Facebook posts and Instagram stories, and I was just amazed.”
As it spread, Stehlik’s mother, Helen Stehlik, also signed the petition’s growing list of signatures. Helen Stehlik said she had never once heard Emily or her friends complain about hazardous issues getting to classes.
“For her to complain about road conditions or the safety of other students, that makes me take a second look and think there must be something going on,” Helen Stehlik said. “I don’t want [the administration] to take weather conditions lightly when it does affect student travel.”
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs Ken Knelly emailed the campus community the next morning, saying the start of classes will be delayed until 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Helen Stehlik saw this on Facebook and was glad someone listened but knew the outcome didn’t directly affect her daughter, since she had no morning classes.
“Something came of it,” Helen Stehlik said. “She did it for a reason and people were listening.”
Part of Emily Stehlik’s concern was influenced by her location off campus, where roads may not be cleared as well as campus roads for students who live on campus.
“A lot of people have a commute, and most people have to either drive or walk, and those sidewalks aren’t cleaned by the school,” Emily Stehlik said.
Helen Stehlik said she understood that the administration and campus maintenance can’t take care of all of Plattsburgh.
“I think they do need to take into consideration the students that are of campus, where maybe road conditions aren’t so favorable,” Helen Stehlik said.
While Emily Stehlik had a presentation in one of her classes Thursday, she said most of the students in her class lived off campus as well. And many of them were not in attendance that day.
“The only reason I got to class was because I Ubered,” Emily Stehlik said. “My car couldn’t even make it up my driveway.”
Helen Stehlik said she wished the administration would be more aware off campus students and professors who have to travel in adverse conditions.
“It’s Plattsburgh,” Helen Stehlik said. “It’s going to be snowy, rainy, icy, cold, windy, whatever the temperature is. But it wasn’t students trying to ban together to cancel classes and have a snow day. When Emily put the petition out, it might have touched a nerve to a lot of people. I think she started the ball rolling to let people know that this is a problem.”