EDITORIAL: CMU, it might be time for a change

We urge the university to revisit its closure policy and consider the policies in place at other universities

A bulldozer moves snow Jan. 28 outside the Health Profession Building.

On Monday, Jan. 28, while students were walking into their 9 a.m. classes or already on campus for 8 a.m. classes, Central Michigan University finally closed for the day due to inclement weather.

This delayed decision left faculty, staff and students frustrated. Why did the university wait so long to make the right call? 

Weather predictions can sometimes be inaccurate, but this storm arrived as expected. In fact, the National Weather Service correctly forecast bitter, cold temperatures last week and the inches of snow that impacted Central Michigan. The university's own meteorology department correctly tracked the storm's arrival. We were among the last state universities to close during the storm. On Monday, only slightly behind CMU, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared Michigan to be in a "State of Emergency."

According to Parking Services, they are currently 5,566 students registered as commuters. This is one third of the student body that has to get in their vehicles and drive to campus. Their safety must come first when discussing closing the university. 

Faculty who live outside of Mount Pleasant commuted through bad weather to teach their Monday morning classes, those many canceled class or took personal days due to the severe weather and poor driving conditions.

Yes, CMU did end up closing. Administrators waited too long to make the right decision.

After the university received backlash about the delayed decision, CMU tweeted that it had been discussing the weather from about 4:45 a.m. that morning. The university knew the weather forecast long before 9 a.m. however.

We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy, especially for Michigan's unpredictable weather. The decision to close should always be made by at least 6 a.m. to give faculty, staff and students ample warning. 

This decision should also be communicated to everyone rapidly. It would be nice if the electronic announcement on CMU social media channels was quickly followed by a Central Alert. Some staff and students say they didn't receive the alert until 10 minutes or more after the closure was announced. 

We know canceling class isn’t an easy decision. We know the university is sensitive about closing because we students are paying for our education. We are paying for our classes and we expect them to take place everyday. We appreciate your consideration of our tuition dollars. We understand students would be upset if there was just a little bit of snow or ice and class was canceled.

Monday’s forecast was about as reliable as weather forecasts can get. The weather was dangerous enough to close down highways or pose the risk of getting stranded on the highway. In this case, when there is a clear, imminent danger to the university’s campus, most students will agree canceling class is looking out for our safety instead of our tuition.

We know this isn’t an easy situation to manage. But CMU, you can do better than this. You showed us that later in the week. On Tuesday, CMU did the right thing by canceling class for Wednesday well in advance. They even canceled classes after 6 p.m., and gave a few hour advance notice. That's a good start. 

We urge the university to revisit its closure policy and consider the policies in place at other universities. It might be time for a change.