Though the center of campus is usually filled with students hurrying to classes, the University of Michigan Diag was uncharacteristically empty Wednesday afternoon. Only a handful of students bundled up with bulky jackets could be seen trudging through the six inches of snow that fell throughout the day Wednesday.
However, just after 7 p.m., the Diag was packed with about 300 U-M students and thousands of airborne snowballs. It’s been almost exactly a year since the Diag was last transformed into a wintry battleground, proving once and for all that there’s nothing Wolverines love more than a good snowball fight.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Washtenaw County and the surrounding area from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 10 p.m. Thursday. As a result, the Ann Arbor Public School district chose to conduct classes virtually through Friday and city offices and non-essential services closed as well. The University’s Ann Arbor campus remained open throughout the week, though the Dearborn and Flint campuses moved classes online.
Nonetheless, campus building closures affected students on the U-M Ann Arbor campus as well. The Shapiro Undergraduate Library closed Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. rather than the usual 12 a.m. due to the inclement weather. The Martha Cook dining hall — which is only for residents of the building — also closed after lunch Wednesday due to staffing shortages, according to an email from Heather Guenther, director of communications for the Division of Student Life. All other dining halls across campus remained open.
Students across campus also had to adjust to changes in course formats. While professors were allowed to hold classes in person, some chose to pivot to a hybrid or online format so commuting students could attend more easily. Art & Design sophomore Sarah Dettling said most of her classes were cancelled or moved online due to the weather Wednesday and Thursday.
“The painting classes were cancelled because you can’t paint at home with oil paintings … and then the other ones were moved online,” Dettling said. “They were really short so it was basically just a snow day for me.”
LSA freshman Nilisha Baid said all of her classes were also moved online or were recorded. Baid said she felt it was easy to quickly switch to online classes since everyone had experience attending class online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having grown up in California, Baid also said was excited to enjoy a “snow day” on campus.
“So even though (some classes) were in person, I was able to just watch the recordings instead of having to go out in the storm,” Baid said. “I’m from California so I’m not really used to a ton of snow regularly. I haven’t had a snowball fight since I was pretty young.”
Baid attended the snowball fight on the Diag Wednesday night which was primarily organized through a post made by the popular Instagram account, @umichaffirmations. The post was made public Wednesday morning and read “I Will Attend EPIC Snowball Fight Near Mason Hall Tonight At 7pm.” It has been shared about 1800 times and has received over 3800 likes.
“I first saw the umichaffirmations post because I think someone shared it on their (Instagram) story and I just thought (the snowball fight) sounded cool,” Baid said. “It was super fun getting to go and have fun with all my friends. I also didn’t realize how many people were going to be there. It ended up being a lot bigger than I expected.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, the owner of the @umichaffirmations account, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared how they planned the snowball fight and their experience attending.
“A couple hours before I was going to post I was like, let’s just see if I can (organize) a snowball fight because I’ve seen people here and there talking about it,” @umichaffirmations said. “I (realized) I could probably use my platform to coordinate and plan an extremely epic one.”
The owner of @umichaffirmations said they also attended the snowball fight to participate and take videos for their page. However, they said they did not reveal their identity and were happy to just blend in with the crowd.
“We had the people (with) sleds (who yelled) battle cries from one side to another,” @umichaffirmations said. “It was chaos, but really well organized chaos and it was cool to see crowds there.”
@umichaffirmations said they aim to spread positivity and fun in everything they post. They said they received a flurry of positive feedback from followers who attended the event and were happy that many students were able to take a break from classes to enjoy the snowy weather.
“It was awesome because this snowball fight was just a big event that took advantage of the outdoors and (was not) watching lectures, doing work or just a standard party,” @umichaffirmations said. “It was something that doesn’t happen very often. That’s kind of my goal, to make campus a happier and more positive place.”
Daily Staff Reporter Carlin Pendell can be reached at email@example.com.