Workers spent nights on campus through snowfall

Some GW maintenance and food services employees who worked during February’s historic snowstorms reported they were stranded on the Mount Vernon campus without adequate lodging.

February’s two storms dropped almost 40 inches of snow over a six-day period, and whiteout conditions made for unsafe driving for extended periods. But employees designated for February snow removal – the responsibility rotates on a monthly basis – were needed on campus each day, and some reported having to sleep on floors to stay on campus.

“I mean, they need us to work, and if we go, they’re still going to call us and we cannot come,” said Felicia Proctor, a dining employee at Ames Dining Hall. “One day I came, I forced myself to come, but you couldn’t see nothing. That was dangerous. That’s when I figured I have to sleep here.”

Proctor said some of her coworkers remained on the campus for four days.

“I slept here two nights,” Proctor, said, referring to the dining hall. “Some slept here like three or four days.”

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said that about 100 employees were on call during the storm. Sherrard said employees were offered “basic accommodations” but were allowed to find other places to stay.

“Facilities Management employees were offered basic accommodations at the University, and some chose to use this option,” she said in an e-mail. “Others may have chosen to make personal arrangements for accommodations.”

She added the accommodations “were safe, dry and warm.”

George Mason, a facilities employee at The Vern, also said he had no choice but to stay on campus.

“It’s just something that you have to accept, you know. I was stuck here for one day, for one night,” Mason said. “I had to stay overnight. I had to sleep on the floor.”

Employees who stayed in University residence halls said those accommodations were more convenient.

“It was very convenient for me, because I had no way of getting home,” said Harold Mitchell, who stayed in Philip Amsterdam Hall during the storm. “We had mattresses and stuff. It was five – sometimes six – to a room.” Amsterdam Hall usually sleeps two to four people.

J Street employee Debra Brown said Foggy Bottom employees did not have to sleep in the dining hall.

“We didn’t do that,” Brown said. “I been here 24 years and there ain’t no way I’m going to sleep on the floor.”

Sodexo, a food and facilities management company, manages Ames for the University. Sodexo also manages the food services in the Marvin Center. Sodexo’s representative at GW, Sam Ramos, did not return request for comment nor did Sodexo’s national headquarters.

Sherrard said the University was grateful to all of the employees who stayed over the storm.

“The University is incredibly grateful to all employees who worked tirelessly throughout the storms of 2010,” she said in an e-mail. “Their efforts were appreciated by all and will be celebrated at breakfast hosted by President Knapp on March 5.”

Proctor said that it was okay that she had to spend some nights in Ames.

“We were trying to find a way to figure how to feed the students, because if there’s [no employees], they don’t have nowhere to go,” Proctor said. “I stay here because students need something to eat.”

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