MD

News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Advertise with us »

University cancels classes due to severe cold

By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily News Editor
and Max Radwin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 27, 2014

For the first time since 1978, the University has canceled classes Tuesday due to extreme weather, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed Monday evening.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will be at a high of 2 degrees, with a wind chill reaching -30 degrees and winds reaching up to 20 miles per hour.

Campus buildings — including dining halls and libraries — will remain open. University transportation services will continue operating as normal, though delays should be expected.

This announcement marks the first time that the University has cancelled classes due to weather-related circumstances since Ann Arbor was hit with 19 inches of snow in 1978.

University Police spokeswoman Diane Brown said University Police will be taking extra efforts to keep response times low to limit the amount of time that people spend outside in the cold.

After Fitzgerald confirmed the decision, University Provost Martha Pollack, Chief Health Officer Robert Winfield and Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, sent a memo to faculty and staff encouraging flexibility and telecommuting if possible for Tuesday.

“Campus operations will continue,” the memo said. “However, while staff should plan to report as usual, we ask that supervisors be flexible and make reasonable accommodations for these extreme circumstances. Travel may be hazardous, especially on foot or by bus, and we ask that all of our colleagues remain sensitive to safety concerns. Parking and Transportation Services is increasing bus frequency to help minimize wait times.”

The memo added that staff who are “unable or choose not to” travel to campus Tuesday should contact their supervisors to use vacation time or unpaid time off.

Medical School Prof. Charles Koopmann, a member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, said he feels it’s “unfortunate” that staff on main campus have to come in or be forced to take a day of vacation. However, he said he believes that the medical campus should remain open, which, according to the memo, will operate normally.

“The University needs to get a well organized plan for something like this and should remarkably improve communications,” Koopmann said.

After the controversy over not closing campus during the Polar Vortex earlier this month, Pollack sat in on the Senate Advisory Committee for University Affairs meeting Jan. 13 to discuss the University’s decision to not cancel classes.

“By the time it became clear that we were facing an extraordinary weather event, we realized that we didn’t have appropriate mechanisms to close the University even if we wanted to,” Pollack said.

During that meeting, Pollack said the University planned to establish a committee to address emergency situations, including weather, that merit the cancellation of classes.

Though that committee was formed and held one meeting last week, Fitzgerald said the decision to cancel classes Tuesday was made independently of that committee, in consultation with the the Office of the Provost, Winfield and Thomas.

“This is a decision that was made based on the unique circumstances that are being presented with the weather forecasts for tomorrow,” Fitzgerald said. “This is not a reflection of any new protocol.”

Business senior Michael Proppe, CSG president, said he believes the dangerous conditions Tuesday warranted the historic measure.

“It’s really going to be cold tomorrow, I think the University made the right call,” Proppe said. “When it’s -25 degrees out with the wind chill and you have students walking 10, 15, or 20 minutes to class, it can be dangerous to have skin exposed in that kind of weather.”

Proppe said he was surprised because such a decision is “unprecedented,” but added that he knows the University has students safety at the forefront.

“Though CSG did not play an active role in today’s decision, executive members brought up the school’s lack of a severe weather policy in their last few meetings with the dean of students, Laura Blake Jones,” Proppe said.

While many students may spend tomorrow binge-watching Netflix or enjoying some other form of leisure, Proppe said his cold day will likely consist of catching up on homework and CSG related projects.

Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College also have canceled classes for Tuesday. According to the Twitter of the State News Twitter, Michigan State University spokesperson Kent Cassella said that MSU is expected to “continue operations as usual.”

St. Joseph County in Indiana, where Notre Dame is located, is under a state of emergency and driving after 7 p.m. is subject to a $2,500 fine.