by Dean Garrick, guest contributor
OMG, it’s beginning to snow outside! There is no way we'll have classes today. In situations like this, when you find yourself wondering if UMSL will be open--chances are it will. While snow may be inconvenient for UMSL students and faculty to get around in, the University strives to keep the campus open when possible.
Several factors go into the decision of keeping the school open. One factor is that many students reside on campus and can walk or shuttle to classes. Partially because of these residing students, last year the campus was closed only twice due to expected bad weather.
"In the last few years, we've had very mild winter weather," said Bob Samples, director of Media, Marketing and Printing Services at UMSL. "The goal is to keep the campus open if we can."
Even though the campus may stay open, many professors do decide to cancel classes on their own because of these snow events, opting to encourage students to complete schoolwork at home.
"It's been my experience, from attending different schools, that other colleges are like UMSL as well. You have to have a lot of snow to close the campus," said John Valley, media studies student. "I've had a lot of professors who have cancelled classes instead while the school remained open. I commute in from Alton and usually the highways are good. It can be an inconvenience for some people, but I believe the University tries to make the best decision," Valley adds.
If the University does close due to weather, the forecast is the deciding factor influencing the decision. "The campus tends to look at long-term weather trends," Samples said. "When we're looking at weather, we're looking at the night forecast and the rush hour traffic to determine if that's going to impact people trying to get to school.”
Normally, campus officials try to make the decision at least a couple hours before the earliest classes. "Usually we try to have a determination by 6 a.m. if they're going to close daytime classes. If we're going to close evening classes, we're typically going to make that determination by 3 p.m.," Samples said.
Now you may be asking who makes the final decision? The chancellor is the person who makes the ultimate decision on whether to close the campus. Campus police and the Department of Public Safety and Grounds are also involved in this decision-making process with regards to reporting conditions to the Chancellor.
"You're paying to get an education, but it would be difficult to get that education if we closed the campus every time it snowed," Samples said. "Sometimes you make the right judgment, sometimes you don't."
When the campus is closing, the faculty, staff and students are then notified. If the University makes the decision in the morning, it sends the information to local television and radio stations so they can pass on the information to their audiences.
If they decide to close the campus in the middle of the day, however, campus-wide emails alert faculty, staff, and students that the campus will be closing. The University's website will also carry the information, as will its telephone hotline, 516- INFO.