Winter is well on its way and people around campus have already started to adjust for the coming cold. However, a lot more goes on behind the scenes than most people realize. Preparing the campus for winter is an arduous task and the Facilities Department at Alma works around the clock to make sure it’s ready.
“Our grounds crew regularly starts work at 6 a.m. However… we may arrive on-site as early as 4 a.m. as needed to make sure sidewalks and parking lots are cleared by 8 a.m.,” said Douglas E. Dice, head of facilities and services at Alma.
The facilities department stays busy even when there isn’t snow. As the weather changes, the department is responsible for more than just clearing the sidewalks. According to Dice, they’re already working on firing up the “sixteen large boilers and around 90 other heating units across campus.”
If something goes awry with any of those heating units, just use the new digital work order system and the facilities department will handle it. “As soon as we are made aware of any heating, cooling, plumbing or other malfunction, we assign a technician to the task,” said Dice.
But before you do, he asks that you take a look around the room first to see if the problem can be easily fixed.
“We get a number of calls each year about cold dorm rooms and find that blankets or clothing have blocked the heater vents,” said Dice.
Students are also making preparations in their dorms. Keeping snow out of the dorms proved to be a challenge on stormy days in past years.
“Last year we just left our shoes out in the hallway. At one point I looked in the hall and there were like 40 pairs of shoes,” said Joshua Gross (‘21).
In anticipation of the snow this year, Gross and his roommate have devised a new solution: a plastic tray in their dorm to hold their shoes when they get wet.
Some of the effects of winter aren’t as obvious as icy sidewalks or wet shoes, but they can be just as challenging. One major obstacle winter brings with it is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression,” said Linda W. Faust, LMSW at the Alma Counseling Center. “Due to a lack of sunshine, one’s body produces less Vitamin D, which can lead to feelings of sadness and a lack of motivation. Also, due to the colder weather, people often get less exercise, which can exaggerate symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
SAD affects about 5% of the population, and it is more common in women.
“The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months… and improve with the arrival of spring. The most difficult months… tend to be January and February,” said Faust. “…and those affected report that ‘they have symptoms about 40% of a calendar year.”
Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, the busy workload that winter brings is the source of a lot of students’ stress.
“The counseling center tends to be the busiest in October, but we believe that is not seasonally associated but rather based on midterms approaching and students becoming busier with classes,” said Faust.
Winter doesn’t mean doom and gloom to everyone though. In fact, some students are excited about it.
“I personally love winter,” said Gross. “When I’m home, I go snowmobiling, sledding, ice fishing—all of that.”
And for some students, being cooped up indoors doesn’t sound all that bad.
“I’m honestly looking forward to having a good excuse to stay in,” said Megan Jenkins (‘23).