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Classes commence despite below-zero temperatures

By Michael Sugerman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 6, 2014

As temperatures fell below zero degrees across much of Michigan, University administrators and staff are working to counteract the effects of extreme weather conditions as students return to school for the start of the winter semester.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the campus will not close for the extreme weather and classes will not be canceled on Wednesday.

“Wednesday is the day that is forecast to turn around a bit,” Fitzgerald said. “Because of the campus’ largely residential nature, it is really unusual for the Ann Arbor campus to close because of weather.”

However, Fitzgerald advised students who may be unable to return to campus on Wednesday due to the weather to keep in touch by email with their instructors.

“What we’ve learned in the past is that professors are very much understanding of those situations that are out of the control of students,” he said.

In an e-mail, University Provost Martha Pollack asked faculty to be flexible with first-day attendance and wait-list policies for students experiencing weather-related delays such as flight cancellations and poor road conditions.

“Please take into consideration these unusual circumstances that are beyond our students' control,” Pollack wrote.

Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones sent an e-mail to students Tuesday evening assuring travelers that professors will accommodate students who cannot return to campus in time for their first class sessions.

“Some of you are concerned about missing the first day of class because of weather-related delays in travel,” she wrote. “Students will not be dropped from a class they are unable to attend and will be given any necessary class material when they return to campus.”

Business sophomore Elena Contis was stuck on the Los Angeles International Airport tarmac for two hours before her flight to Detroit took off due to inclement Michigan weather and a water main break at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Tuesday afternoon.

Although she made it to Ann Arbor before classes began, Contis said she would worry about missing course material if her flight was cancelled or delayed. She said that classes should be postponed until the end of the week.

“Regardless of whether or not we get punished for missing classes, we’re still going to miss information,” Contis said. “I don’t care about not getting in trouble; I care about missing potentially important material.”

Contis was one of many students to face delays before returning to Michigan, although others faced canceled flights at airports across the country.

LSA freshman Spencer Hagler was one of these students, waiting for six hours at New York’s LaGuardia Airport before learning his flight was canceled. He was supposed to leave Monday evening, and will now fly to Detroit Wednesday morning if weather permits.

Though his first class isn’t until the early afternoon on Wednesday, Hagler said returning to Ann Arbor on time will also depend on road conditions and cab service.

“It should be okay,” he said. “But who knows what else will go wrong?”

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning that will remain in affect until 7 a.m. Wednesday. With the wind chill factored in, temperatures are expected to drop to 35 degrees below zero Monday night and into Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service said this weather event is likely the coldest air to hit southeast Michigan in twenty years.

Atmospheric Science Prof.