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When should colleges cancel classes for weather?

MSU88CHEngMSU88CHEng 235 replies2 threads Junior Member
I'm still in a parents forum for my older son's college (small, regional SUNY) even though he graduated last spring. The discussion got heated this past weekend because this college was NOT cancelling classes/closing on Monday after Thanksgiving break while a couple of other regional SUNY's in the area were. An ice/snow storm was blowing through the area on Sunday, making travel treacherous. We live ~45 min. from this college, and my younger son, who was flying to his OOS university, had his flight delayed for 5 hours, and was lucky it wasn't cancelled, so traveling in the area pretty much sucked on Sunday. But by 5 pm on Sunday, the ice was done, and there was just a typical amount of snow (4-6 inches) overnight. Yes, sounds like a lot if you're not used to it, but normal for around here, and the road crews kept the roads more or less plowed. Also, this storm was predicted WAY before Thanksgiving, so everyone knew it was coming. In fact, the college sent out an email on Saturday, encouraging all students who could to travel back early. They recommended that students contact professors about missing classes if they didn't come back early and didn't feel safe traveling on Sunday.

So, the parent forum was vastly divided. Some thought that students should have done whatever was necessary to get back early and miss the storm, and anyone missing Monday classes was irresponsible. Others thought the school was irresponsible for not cancelling classes on Monday and risking the safety of the students. There was much back and forth, and since I didn't have a horse in the race, I sat back and watched the show...

It did get me thinking--WHEN should colleges close for weather? In the above case, I tend to side with those who didn't want to cancel classes. The weather in the area of the college on Monday was NORMAL winter weather for here. Other parts of the state still had travel advisories, but it was fine near the school. And it's only about a week before finals, with no time to "make up" missed instructional time and materials--plus, the students are PAYING for these classes. Then again, I thought the length of closings for some of last year's polar vortex was excessive, too. So, I'm probably one of those "old school, cold weather, walked 2 miles through blizzards, uphill both ways to get to school" kind of people...

I'm just curious what other people think...
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Replies to: When should colleges cancel classes for weather?

  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23647 replies17 threads Senior Member
    Wyoming has the policy that the school rarely closes, but if you are off campus/out of Laramie, if you miss a class because of weather it is excused and the professor will help you catch up. Classes were cancelled last Mon and Tues because a big storm was expected and they wanted people to get home for Thanksgiving. If it hadn't been a holiday week, classes would not have been cancelled.

    Back in my day, classes were never cancelled (like @MSU88CHEng, feet of snow and uphill one way, death ride downhill to get home). Why should those who can get there not get the classes they've paid for just because others didn't plan to get back through the snow? They can get the notes from a classmate.
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  • EmpireappleEmpireapple 1919 replies27 threads Senior Member
    LOL The same discussion is going on on the FB page for my son's university. Parents are getting quite passionate about the school's decisions regarding the weather. Some are angry and bashing the school, others are supporting the school. I really didn't know people could get so heated about closures.

    My thoughts...everyone do the best they can and stay safe. Let's not get worked up about it.
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  • helpingmom40helpingmom40 199 replies6 threads Junior Member
    I’m in Upstate, too, grew up in NH and went to college in Boston. We very rarely had snow days growing up and only one “ice” day, maybe in the spring. I don’t remember any snow days in college, either, which was interesting because we were on one of the green line trolleys that closed for snow so sometimes professors wouldn’t show. We have already used 2 of our 3 snow days in the school district and had one delay. It’s the same FB complaining about closures and delays.

    I spent some time thinking about what we will do next year when D20 is off at school and looked at the schools on her list to see what they were doing (most were closed). I think you need to use common sense and do what is best for you. We would have brought her back early just to make sure everyone was safe. If they were closed on Monday, at least she would be there and we wouldn’t be on the road. That being said, all of her schools are within a 5 hour drive and flying/bus/train isn’t practical so we wouldn’t have do deal with that aspect.
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  • ja;sldkjfja;sldkjf 40 replies0 threads Junior Member
    It wasn't just the school that knew in advance that the storm was coming, the students knew too. The school shouldn't even have had to remind the students to change their travel plans. Ultimately, ask the school what its closing policy is. (My husband works for a company that does not close even if the governor declares a State of Emergency. He used to tough it out, now he uses vacation days.)
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8281 replies70 threads Senior Member
    I’m another poster who went to school in the finger lakes and didn’t have one snow day. I’m in the camp that students need to check the forecasts and plan accordingly for travel.

    If parents are going to freak out, pick a school in a warm climate.

    Our D adjusted her departure plans and went back early to beat forecasted snow (never happened but better safe than sorry).

    Where schools could help themselves is by having more flexible dorm options as I read some LACs close dorms for breaks. Not easy to come back early if you have no place to stay.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2653 replies55 threads Senior Member
    Travel plans, especially by plane, can be very difficult and expensive to change. Colleges should make the best decision they can going by the safety of local faculty/staff and commuters, and then make it a policy not to punish students for non-attendance for the day in question.
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  • garlandgarland 16119 replies201 threads Senior Member
    The vast majority of professors know that students may need to miss a class at some point. Our attendance policy takes that into account and allows for a certain number of missed days in the program I teach in. I tell my students--these are for emergencies; don't just decide to skip class some mornings and then not have days left for a storm or a flat tire or an illness. That being said, my most responsible students did email me when they couldn't get back to Jersey (don't know why one was in Canada for the short break, but not my business.)
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  • garlandgarland 16119 replies201 threads Senior Member
    Also, in the get off my lawn lane--I went to Michigan and we never closed, not even for the ice storm that knocked out electricity in much of town.
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  • thumper1thumper1 76070 replies3352 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    But if parents are going to freak out, pick a school in a warm climate

    This doesn’t help the student traveling from the bad weather place to the warm weather one when there is a storm. Most professors are understanding in these situations.

    Re: not having snow days in the past...then was then and now is now. More people do NOT live on campus now, and the staff sometimes lives further away than in the last as well. I grew up in Lake Affect Snow Land, and we never had snow days. But almost everyone could walk.

    In addition, at some of these colleges, I’m betting the faculty couldn’t get back either.

    From what I read, just about every college in the storm path opened dorms a day early so students could get back and have a place to stay.

    Re: travel...my kid flew on Sunday and Monday ...but was offered the option of changing without charge before this storm even started.
    edited December 2019
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8281 replies70 threads Senior Member
    IMO commuter campuses are different.
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  • 4kids4us4kids4us 773 replies4 threads Member
    My son’s school was affected by the storm in NY. The dorms were originally closed until Sunday at 10am for the Thanksgiving break. They decided to reopen the dorms early, on Saturday, for anyone who was able to change their travel plans and head back early They did not, however, do a very good job publicizing. There were no emails sent out to students. I heard about it on our parent FB page, and then a couple of parents called the Security office to confirm. And while they were able to open the dorms early, several did not have heat until Sunday and there was no dining until Sunday afternoon. By Sunday evening, an email went out that classes were canceled Monday morning and they would reassess by 7am Monday morning. My son was taking the train back Monday morning, preplanned, as he doesn’t have any morning classes. Enroute to the train station, he got the email that school was closed Monday. Good thing for him, as his train was delayed and he missed his connection, so he didn’t get back to school until after his first class would have started.

    In his school’s case, I imagine the decision was made not because the students couldn’t get back in time - travel was not difficult on Sunday for the majority of students who attend his school. I think instead, it must have been based on road condtions on Monday and whether or not the professors could get to class. I don’t think it stopped snowing until Monday evening. I don’t live in the area, so have no idea what conditions were like, so not for me to second guess the decision.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not common for his college to cancel classes so I’m not one of those parents whose going to be up in arms about missing one day. (I’m more annoyed about the professor at my older daughter’s school who canceled class several times last year because of speaking engagements related to his field. THAT pissed me off. The class was a 3 hr evening class that only met once a week.)

    I think this particular storm just happened to hit at the worst time for travel - one of the busiest travel days of the year. I don’t agree that people can easily alter their travel plans - flights/trains are full due to the holiday, etc. In this situation, I would expect the school and professors to be lenient if they opt to stay open, knowing that all resident students had gone home for the holiday and might have difficulty getting back.
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  • chardonMNchardonMN 154 replies12 threads Junior Member
    U of MN also closed for the polar vortex. I haven't heard of them closing for other weather though. I am not sure it's worth getting very upset about, unless the student is missing a final exam or something and no leeway is given. I doubt that happens much.
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3203 replies43 threads Senior Member
    My whole family went to school in the Midwest. For us parents, college almost never closed unless there was so much snow that maintenance couldn't get the campus lots/roads cleared. Since I work at a college, I understand some of the considerations that go into the decision to close. Safety of the commuters/staff has to be weighed against what happens when you've got residence halls full of students with extra snow days. While no child of a cc parent ever sows any wild oats, well, let's just say that's not the case for everyone. It may be too dangerous to walk across campus, but somebody manages to get to an open store and stocks up on libations...Anyway, it's a balancing act. Colleges close when conditions become dangerous, rather than just dicey. Then, of course, holiday breaks have to be taken into consideration. My employer closed early for Thanksgiving, ahead of the storm, and encouraged the students to get home, and for those flying, get to their airport city so they weren't trying to navigate 100 miles or so of white-out conditions.
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  • one+twoone+two 141 replies7 threads Junior Member
    edited December 2019
    My Southern son is going to college in the North. The first day they had a few inches of snow I told him to gather the other Southerners and ask if classes would be canceled. As for parents on college FB pages, I saw some posts for two of the schools my kids attend complaining about the school's schedule of closing starting Wednesday of Thanksgiving week instead of giving the whole week. It was unfair because of time needed for their kids to travel home and back since they lived so far away. As if they didn't look at the school's schedule, or the distance from home when their kid signed up. I'm not sure what's going to happen when their kids get their first jobs and can't get an entire week off from work at Thanksgiving.
    edited December 2019
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9221 replies343 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Colleges should close when travel is dangerous. The paramedics, road crews, nurses, police, and other rescue personnel -- some of whom are required to direct traffic near icy highways in the dark while you're totaled car is being dragged out of a ditch -- aren't impressed by people toughing it out or trying to outrace a storm that even seasoned professionals aren't capable of predicting. The SUNY presidents should know better.
    edited December 2019
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39514 replies2176 threads Super Moderator
    edited December 2019
    When my son was at UT-Austin in 2010, he headed out to class one morning. Austin had gotten a quarter of an inch of snow (literally). He couldn't figure out why campus was a ghost town. He finally found someone to ask, and they looked at him like he was nuts - "Classes were canceled, of course!" Ha, for a kid who had to walk half a mile to the bus stop through ice and snow for 13 winters in Maine, he was baffled.

    Schools have a lot of issues to consider when deciding whether to close. I think parents shouldn't second-guess them. Up here, it's common knowledge that businesses, schools, doctors' offices, etc. give you grace if it's not safe to drive. If a kid misses class, the professor will cut him/her slack.
    edited December 2019
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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