The University of Rochester is no stranger to bad weather. Year after year, it has tried to deal with everyday snowstorms by using pounds of salt and large snow plows. Yet, despite all of the school’s efforts, many students are still frequently injured by patches of ice and blinding snow.

The 2011 storm was so monstrous that the University was forced to release a special edition of the Weekly Buzz to instruct students how to safely cross the perilous campus en route to their classes. The article offered life-saving advice such as “take smaller steps” and “consider bringing a snow shovel.” While this comforted many of the undergraduates, an insignificant majority was angered, claiming that the school should have cancelled classes and not expected the students to somehow purchase a shovel.

Today, almost four years later, the University has finally decided to address these concerns by releasing a UR brand of snow shovel. Designed by the school’s own fifth-year senior and mechanical engineering and philosophy double major Doug Pelle, the spade boasts a royal-blue shaft leading to a dandelion-yellow shovel head engraved with a giant “UR” in the middle.

The tool has a unique handle design which allows for better back alignment while plowing, relieving stress put on the lower vertebra and tail bone. Instead of requiring a standing position like commonplace shovels, this revolutionary design instead has the user push while on his or her knees.

Pelle states that “having experienced the 2011 snowstorm my freshman year, I heard many of the complaints offered by my peers. I knew that if they could only get their hands on a good- quality shovel, my shovel, then the whining would stop. Apparently, the University agreed.”

Rich Billig, a spokesman for the University of Rochester, claims that he is in love with this shovel. He states, “We have received literally hundreds of complaints that our plowing has been insufficient. So we decided that, if students think the job is so easy, why not just let them do it? With a simple, one-time fee added to their tuition, undergraduates will receive their own labeled shovels when they are given their school IDs.”

Billig plans to require each student to own and maintain one of Pelle’s Snow-Away© shovels with the possibility of a fine-or even expulsion-for those caught misusing or losing theirs. This new requirement has allowed the school to place more responsibility for grounds maintenance onto the students.

“The University is currently planning to almost completely stop salting walkways,” Billig said. “The system is a win-win for both the school and its students. Students get to control the plowing and the University is able to save money. We are planning to reduce our current maintenance staff by up to half of what it is now, and we couldn’t be happier.”

While this system may seem perfect, some students have yet to endorse it, arguing that the school should even increase salting. Salt enthusiast Grace Isisulu ‘17 claims that the school isn’t doing enough to protect its students. “All last spring, I had to walk around with an arm brace because I slipped on a patch of ice and landed on one of those stupid ‘Stop Winter Falls, Walk Like a Penguin’ signs.”

Billig stands by his decision nevertheless, stating, “I believe that we need to come together and put these petty issues aside in order to be part of something greater than ourselves. As we speak, the University is compelling environmentally directed clubs to support us in reducing the amount of salt that flows into the soil and Genesee. Sports teams are being rewarded to change their morning practices to plowing the academic quad. The UR community is strong, and, if we work together, we can direct the money wasted on making the roads safe toward a good cause. Using the money saved, we will finally be able to begin our plan to almost double alumni donation requests.”

Putting the economic and environmental benefits of this project aside, Pelle believes that the Snow-Away© can have an even more important impact on the campus spirit, saying, “I completely understand how all current students must be feeling with regard to the current weather: powerless. I have spent a year and a half on this senior project because I know that it will help students feel like they’re part of something bigger. My hope is that, while the students are crouched down, plowing the walkways clean every morning, they will see that giant “U” and “R” and know that they’re part of a family that cares about them.”

McClelland is a member of

the class of 2015. 

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