COLUMN: 'Slippery' cancellation standards
As the winter drags on, students at Central Michigan University continually hope for school cancellations to save them from the bitter cold. When severe weather conditions are on the radar, students wait anxiously by their laptops for that one special email, excusing them from classes for the day.
Although the university has a procedure for deciding cancellations, CMU has been inconsistent with their idea of what actually qualifies as a snow day.
Barry Wilkes, vice president of finance and administrative services, makes the official call with advice from the police department and facilities management – but the decision on delays or closings can be made no later than 6 a.m., and night classes must be called off by 1:30 p.m.
However, as members of the university come to conclusions about cancellations, it is difficult for students to ignore the inconsistency in cancellations. The extreme cold or icy conditions can leave us sometimes with a day off, and other times dredging through the snow, forced to go to class.
With many students walking to and from classes from off-campus housing, the university needs to be more consistent about weather conditions that declare a cancellation.
Last Monday, the high temperature was 14 degrees throughout the day. With windchill, it felt like negative five. While walking to class, my face went numb. My fingers froze. And although I was appropriately dressed, it wasn’t appropriate conditions to be walking in.
Classes were cancelled for the following day due to predictions of severe negative temperatures on Tuesday. However, Monday and Tuesday in Mount Pleasant were equally bitter cold.
In these conditions, students should not be walking to classes – not only for comfort, but because it’s a health concern.
Negative temperatures, especially with windchill, can put students at risk of frostbite or hypothermia. In temperatures below zero, it can take, on average, 15 to 30 minutes for frostbite to set in. With students walking to their classes from off-campus housing, walking is a minimum of 15 minutes.
While CMU has an in-depth policy of how to close or delay the school, no definition is available for what would actually qualify for a closure. Without these qualifiers, closing the school during the harsh weather conditions becomes inconsistent and unreliable.
So, please, CMU – set some standards. Be more consistent. Don't put the safety of students at risk.