Having a full day of classes get cancelled is a rarity in college.
Due to a winter storm on Jan. 17, the first day of the new semester was a snow day for Wake Forest students. Early morning classes were cancelled for the rest of the week.
Kevin Cox, the Director of Crisis Communications and Community Relations in the Office of Communications and External Relations, said that decisions about closings and delays are carefully considered by a number of people well-experienced with addressing bad weather and the complications it can bring to the university community.
“Concern for the safety of our campus community is always at top of mind for those making decisions,” Cox said. “Before a decision is made, there is a close look at the weather forecast for the short-term and the long-term. Present and future travel conditions are considered, as well as conditions of campus roads, sidewalks and parking lots.”
He added that when staff members make closing decisions, they gather, consider and evaluate a great amount of information and then make recommendations for consideration by the university’s senior leaders.
“Once leadership makes the decision on a closing or delay, Communications and External Relations staff work as fast as possible to share the decision with students, faculty, staff and others,” Cox said.
While students may have been happy with putting off classes for a bit, many professors were concerned about the cancellations of the first scheduled classes. Cox said that the academic schedule is considered as well as any events that may be or are to be held.
Many professors felt that in order to keep their classes on-schedule, they needed to assign homework remotely.
While many students enjoyed time outdoors during the snowstorm, others had trouble returning to a normal schedule and balancing a buildup of assignments.
“It was really fun to spend time with friends after having not seen them for about a month,” said freshman Caitlyn Margol. “It was also nice to have a few days to relax before classes really picked up. However, I was still assigned homework in my classes that didn’t meet, which put a damper on the snow day.”
Similarly, freshman Emma Ecklin said, “[I] was thrilled class was canceled in the beginning, but it kept me on vacation mode, so I’ve been struggling being productive and getting back into a routine.”
While students enjoyed the snow day and subsequent elays, they continued to push back classes, making it increasingly difficult to return to academic schedule.
Some professors assigned homework and technically started class before a single meeting, while other professors cancelled class even when they were permitted to take place. Communications professor Rowena Kirby-Straker said that she cancelled class “because although campus [was] open at 10 a.m. when our class should start, there [was] a travel advisory out for my area due to hazardous road conditions.”
When the university is tasked with making closing decisions, staff members balance the academic schedule against safety concerns for students, faculty and staff.