February 20, 2003

Students, Administrators Debate University School Closing Policy

Print More

As students trudged their way though the snow on Monday, many probably wished classes were cancelled. The campus has not, however, closed due to snow in the past few years, according to Harold Craft Jr., vice president for administration.

Craft said that Ithaca has received mild winters over the past few years and he does not remember the last time the school closed down. He added that many commuters do not have a hard time getting to class.

“We’re overwhelmingly a residential campus,” said Hank Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations. “Most students can get to their classes without difficulty.”

A greater concern is that faculty and staff mostly live farther away from campus and need to drive to get to their offices. Some employees however, do not have many problems.

“The traffic is not bad, but some of the hills are really slippery,” said Prof. Ted O’Donoghue, economics.

O’Donoghue, who drives about ten minutes to get to campus, said that from peers he has talked to, “Most people don’t seem to have much trouble with the snow.”

Others had more difficulty on Monday, including Prof. Morten Christiansen, psychology. Christiansen had to cancel a graduate seminar because town officials did not clear out the area near his Dryden home. “Generally, I don’t have problems with getting into class. It was only this once,” he said.

Christiansen added that some faculty he knows live within walking distance of the school.

According to Craft, the University is generous with personal time off. He said that if a staff member cannot come in, “they [usually] will not be penalized.”

In the event of the possible cancellation of classes, Craft, who considers himself the “official snowman,” gathers information from local authorities about weather and road conditions and discusses the situation with other administrators.

Craft later informs either University President Hunter R. Rawlings III or Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin about the scenario, and they make the eventual decision.

“It is pretty subjective. [For example], there was a lot of snow on Monday but the road crews and plows were keeping up,” Craft said.

One situation where school might be canceled is if the Tompkins County sheriff closed the roads, according to Dullea. Craft said that much depends on road work by the local communities.

“If [faculty] can’t get in from local communities, we have a problem,” Craft said.

If Rawlings or Martin make a decision to close down the school, an e-mail is sent out to all students, faculty and staff. Dullea said that the University puts out the news to the media, newspapers and radio stations.

The prospect of school cancellation however, is one that administrators and faculty would not want to face. According to Dullea, the cancellation of classes creates a huge problem in rescheduling lab and class time.

“Students are better served [if they go to class], as they don’t miss possible information,” Christiansen said.

He added that in comparison to public schools, where it might be easier to add days onto the school year, it would be more difficult in a University setting.

“The general view [from faculty], is that their classes should go forward,” Dullea said.

Some students, such as Laurel Ingraham ’06 thinks that the University should follow other colleges leads by also closing down school due to heavy snow. However, she added, “we are more used to [cold weather].”

Some students, such as Cyrus Farhangi ’05 agree with the administration’s sentiments.

“I do not see how [class cancellation] is possible in a place like Cornell,” Farhangi said. “There are sections and labs every day for some classes and canceling a day would create huge discrepancies in how much material students are taught.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao