Officials Alone on Closing Call

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

Campus officials now decide weather-related school delays and closings independently of other schools in the region.

Officials changed the Inclement Weather Policy for the 2013 spring semester.

Previously, officials would make decisions in conjunction with King’s College and Wilkes University.

Closing and delay decisions are in the hands of Dr. Mari King, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Eric Nelson, Vice President of Finance and Administration. King and Nelson work together to determine one of three options: a compressed schedule, a noon opening or closing, or a closed campus.

The revised policy states the school will close based on “conditions of the University roadways, parking lots, sidewalks and the ability of the facilities staff to keep up with the storm; conditions of local roadways and the ability of the state and county to keep the roadways passable; weather forecasts; state and or county restrictions.”

King feels the policy to change is in the best interest of the university community.

“It was like I would talk to Wilkes, and King’s would talk to Wilkes, and it would take an hour
for us to make a decision because the three of us weren’t on the phone together,” she said. “So I think that Eric and I right now are making the decision earlier than we had when we were making it in conjunction with King’s and Wilkes. We touch base between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. and the text message is sent out at 5:15 a.m.”

Nelson said notifying students earlier is more convenient for planning purposes.

“I think people would appreciate it more because if they are trying to plan, especially if they are traveling and let’s say they have a family. You know, ‘What are we going to do with the children? How are we going to get on the roads?’ that sort of thing,” he said.

Officials had worked in cooperation with other schools in the past because of students who cross registered at other schools. Students are still taking those courses but mostly online, according to King.

“When we looked at the number of students who are now taking courses among the institutions, they are primarily taking online
courses. There were just a handful actually traveling between the campuses,” she said. “So that also affected our decision to do it independently.”

King and Nelson made their first decision under the new policy Jan. 28 to remain open while a number of other schools in the region delayed their opening.

“It was confusing, that first storm, because it was the first time that we were actually making the decision on our own and [the policy] was only communicated I think the day before that storm happened,” King said. “So I think it was really confusing to everyone.”SNOW2webedit

Student Government Association President Catie Becker sent an email to the campus community after talking with King about remaining open during severe weather on Jan. 28.

Becker said King was “receptive to our concerns regarding the cancellation of classes as well as the safety of students and employees on, and off, campus. She understands and realizes that this is a learning opportunity for future situations,” according to the email.

Becker said that the email was a necessary step to take.

“We sent the email out because we had a lot of complaints from students, faculty and administrators that Monday because the conditions were really, really dangerous on campus,” she said. “We had seen multiple people fall and people were really upset that they were being asked to sort of risk their safety to come in.”

She thinks the university making decisions independent of other schools is a positive step because at times she feels Dallas has different weather conditions than Wilkes-Barre does.

In the case of a delayed start, Becker asks that everyone is understanding and patient.

“We’ve heard from a couple grad students in the PT program who were really upset because they have to drive far,” she said. “They couldn’t miss a class, and I think teachers also have to be understanding with those cases.”

There are certain steps that professors and faculty need to take in the case of inclement weather. If a professor is not able to make it to campus, but classes are still scheduled, they are instructed to change their office voice mail messages and send an email the students two hours prior to class time.

Professors are also required to have the compressed schedule meeting time on syllabi.

“That is one thing that is important for students to know,” King said. “That is their contract with a faculty member so that they know what is going on. At least for the past couple of years we required that.”

The full Inclement Weather and Unscheduled University Closings Policy is available at misericordia.edu under Human Resources.