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Winter Term off to a snowy start

By Olivia Braude
On January 19, 2014

Wear your pajamas inside out, put ice cubes in the toilet, sleep backwards in your bed; the old tricks kids use to conjure snow days seem to lose their effect in college, but Miami University students who returned to campus to start classes Jan. 6 kicked-off the school's first winter term with a rare university snow day.

The forecast for Monday, Jan. 6 predicted temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows reaching negative seven degrees. The combination of extreme temperatures and high winds forecast for Monday played a role in the university's decision to close, David Creamer, Vice President for Finance and Business Services, said.

According to Creamer, one of the officials involved in deciding to cancel classes, each weather situation is different and is analyzed separately. There are no standards, such as amount of snowfall or benchmark temperatures, that will automatically result in a decision to close the campus or cancel classes.

And, Creamer said, there is a difference between closing the campus and cancelling or delaying classes. Cancelling classes affects the students and faculty, but Miami staff are still required to work. If campus is closed, the staff have the day off with the exception of a few 'weather emergency' staff to feed and meet the needs of students, and the public safety staff.

According to Creamer, closing campus is much more extreme and therefore occurs less frequently than does cancelling or delaying classes.

For either decision to be made, officials must consider a number of factors. In the case of Monday's cancellation, administration factored in the timing of the blistering cold and predicted snowfall relative to the arrival of students on campus. 

"We had the added concern on Monday that many students were returning to Oxford on Sunday to begin the winter term and the weather throughout the region was going to affect their ability to arrive for Monday's classes," Creamer said.

According to Bobby Gempesaw, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, the safety of the students, faculty, and staff is given priority when deciding to cancel classes.

Other factors analyzed before a decision is made include the current and expected conditions of roads and walkways on Miami's campus and in Oxford, the difficulty students will have walking the campus, whether the buses are able to operate and the risk of harm to pedestrians because of icy sidewalks, Creamer said.

"We always try to make the best decision that takes into consideration both the importance of student safety and preserving the class schedule," he said.

Winter term is a three-week period of accelerated classes that give students the opportunity to earn credits in a short amount of time. Losing a day of class during the compact term schedule is difficult on professors and students, one of the reasons classes resumed Tuesday despite forecasts for frigid temperatures.

"We don't have snow days built into our calendars; the missed instructional activity must be made up within the regular calendar," Creamer said.

In order to get announcements about weather-related schedule changes out to the students, faculty and staff, Claire Wagner, Director of University News and Communication, sends out text messages and emails to the community. This information includes the date of the cancellation, closing or delay, why the cancellation, closing, or delay was made, and resources for additional information. 

Wagner does not send these notifications often, the last time an entire day of classes was cancelled at Miami was Feb. 2, 2011.

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