Students question decision to delay cancelling Friday classes

A tractor and snow plow are seen plowing near the Nathan Hale Inn and South campus during a snow storm on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. The storm resulted in classes being cancelled for the day. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

Many University of Connecticut students were up in arms on Friday after the university canceled classes just 15 minutes before 8 a.m., the first scheduled class time.

Many schools and facilities around the state canceled operations as early as Thursday night, but UConn didn’t make any calls until 7:45 a.m.

“Morning classes at UConn Storrs are canceled on 2-5-16 due to conditions on local roads. A normal schedule resumes at noon,” the 7:45 a.m. text alert said.

But by 7:45 a.m., students and faculty were already in transit on those roads. UConn’s Reddit page was blowing up Friday with the comments of angry commuters.

“Almost got into an accident three times on my way (to UConn) and I saw at least 10 cars that spun out on the highway,” one student wrote on Reddit. “This is no joke, these conditions are literally life-threatening.”

A second text alert came at 10:08 a.m., stating that “all UConn campuses are closed on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Classes are canceled. Essential employees report as normal.”

“Got the text at 10 a.m., I had left for my 11:00 class already and got stuck in traffic both going to school and driving home once I got the text,” a second student wrote on Reddit. “Used up maybe four gallons of gas and two hours of my time.”

A third student on Reddit noted that UConn “should follow their own protocol.” The writer linked and quoted UConn’s emergency closing policy: “The University will make announcements about closings or delayed openings as soon as feasible, and generally no later than 5 a.m.”

University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the university does not take the decision to close lightly, as there are many factors that play into making the decision.

“While the university’s policy is to make operating decisions in the event of winter weather conditions by 5 a.m., road conditions did not warrant delay or closure at that hour Friday morning,” Reitz said.

Got the text at 10 a.m., I had left for my 11:00 class already and got stuck in traffic both going to school and driving home once I got the text. Used up maybe four gallons of gas and two hours of my time.
— A UConn student on the /r/UConn subreddit, on the university's timing for cancelling classes Friday

The university sent out an email announcement back in October regarding UConn’s updated policy on emergency closings, stating that “sometimes conditions change rapidly…and we may need to adjust decisions about class schedules and business operations on short notice.”

Fourth-semester pre-teaching major Samantha Holder, who lives on the Storrs campus, said she made the trek to her 8 a.m. physics class only to get the class cancellation text upon arrival to her class.

Holder said she left her dorm to walk to class around 7:30 a.m. even though conditions looked really bad. She arrived at her class around 7:45 a.m., just as the text alert was sent out.

“Before I could even sit down a girl in my class asked, ‘did you just get the text? All morning classes have been canceled’” Holder said. “It was bittersweet, because obviously it’s exciting to learn you have a snow day, but I had already woken up early and trekked out to my class in the snow.”

Holder’s professor, along with eight other students, were already in her classroom when the text alert came. Her professor offered to teach the lecture to the small group anyway.

“I know (the university) probably wanted to wait as long as possible to determine if the roads were safe enough to hold classes or decide to cancel them, but I feel like fifteen minutes wasn’t enough warning for all the students and professors with a longer morning commute,” Holder said.

“The process for making decisions at UConn are different than that of local school districts since most students live on or near campus, and operations for clearing roads, maintaining building utilities, operating dining halls and managing laboratories must continue in any weather condition,” Reitz said.

Friday’s forecast took an intense turn from late Thursday night into Friday morning, with snow falling in higher accumulation than predicted, Reitz said. The timing of the storm’s severity complicated the decision process for cancelling classes.

“As the storm intensified and road conditions deteriorated more significantly than expected, that decision was revisited in the interest of public safety and, as a result, came later than university officials would have liked,” Reitz said.

In severe weather situations, the university expects students and faculty to take any necessary precautions to keep themselves safe, even when classes are still on. Professors are required to accommodate students who choose to stay home and miss class because of inclement weather, according to UConn’s Emergency Closing Policy.

“During inclement weather and other emergency situations at the University of Connecticut, the safety of our students, faculty and staff is paramount,” the policy says.


Molly Stadnicki is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu. She tweets @molly_stadnicki.