Our home city of Chicago has endured one of its coldest polar plunges in years, with temperatures falling into the subzero range and wind chills as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-45 Celsius). Foreseeing these uninhabitable conditions, all Illinois Tech campuses were officially closed from 6 p.m. Tuesday, January 29 through Thursday, January 31. It was not until the time of this writing on Friday, February 1 that normal university operations and classes were able to resume. This meant that, for a period of two days, the Illinois Tech students who live on campus found themselves at the mercy of the elements, with no preoccupations or obligations related to this university in sight.
However, a contingent of “essential” departments remained open throughout the weather-related closure to ensure that the campus and its residents remained safe throughout the polar vortex. This article looks to thank these staff members for the efforts they went through, braving this lethal weather to come to this campus and perform their duties in some of the most adverse conditions in years for the safety and well-being of its students. If not for these departments and their staff, the closure and the inclement weather would have been even harder to bear for those who live on campus.
Illinois Tech Culinary and Hospitality Services kept the Commons open through the closure, allowing students willing to brave the outside walk to still have a warm meal throughout the day. In addition, the Commons also saw two different “Cabin Fever Reliever” events held on both days, wherein entertainment was available in the south pod of the Commons in the form of Kahoot! live-participation quizzes, a screening of the movie “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in collaboration with Illinois Tech Union Board, and a Teaching Kitchen with Executive Chef Sven Lindroth to help break the monotony of being iced-in for students on campus.
In addition, Illinois Tech Public Safety continued its regular patrol regiments, never allowing its presence on campus to wane, no matter what weather conditions there may be. Public Safety officers continued to make their rounds around campus in the hostile weather, doing their part to keep campus welcoming and safe.
The Illinois Tech Office of Residence Life and its staff of residence hall directors (RHDs) and resident advisors (RAs) maintained their duties of responding to campus housing emergencies and ensuring that their respective halls and the students within them remained not only safe and sound but also entertained. Throughout all of the residence halls on campus, RAs went to work scheduling and arranging game nights and other social blenders for their students to help break any fast-acting onsets of cabin fever.
Finally, Illinois Tech Facilities Operations and Maintenance continued its processes of building maintenance, custodial work, grounds maintenance (including snow removal), and utilities. Of particular note is the rapid response by Facilities to address the sudden sprinkler malfunction in the MTCC on Thursday, January 31 (for more information see the article “Mies wept: the MTCC flood of January 2019” on page five).
All of these essential departments played a vital role in keeping the Mies Campus habitable through one of the harshest winter periods in decades. Many times, these staff members come to be sort of unsung heroes of campus, constantly performing vital tasks that allow us students to go about our daily lives in relative comfort and security. The aftermath of one of the coldest periods this campus has ever seen seems as appropriate a time as any to extend a token of thanks to all of the staff members and departments that keep this campus running.
Photos courtesy of Illinois Tech Office of Facilities and Public Safety