Thursday, March 3, 2011

Snow day decisions not ‘cookie cutter’

By Nick Nealy, News Reporter

Commuter students and faculty know the anticipation – wondering, on a snowy night, whether they will chance the dangerous trip to school the next day.

Administrators argue that they have a lot to consider, while some students say certain issues are ignored.

“This is not a cookie cutter decision,” Executive Associate to the President Emily Isensee said.

The president, provost and vice presidents convene around 5 a.M. To analyze various weather reports and advisories from the Washington State Traffic Department in order to decide whether to call a snow day. Another meeting around noon decides whether to cancel evening classes.

PLU-area weather reports are not only taken into consideration, but also those where commuter students and professors live. The cancelation of morning classes is announced on all media outlets by 6 a.M. Afternoon classes are announced in the same fashion around 1 p.m.

“What you try to do is take in all different factors,” Director of Administration Vicky Winters said, in regards to the decision-making process.

The academic effect of that day’s school cancelation is also considered. For example, school is rarely cancelled during finals. Administrators also take into account what other schools choose.

It is then at the discretion of professors whether to cancel their own classes when a snow day is not called.

“It is my understanding that we should be willing to be flexible if students can’t make it,” professor of Religion Erik Hammerstrom said.

Even with this system in place, some commuter students are occasionally still dissatisfied with the administration’s decision regarding snow days.

“It seems unorganized and haphazard,” commuter student intern sophomore Stephanie Noyes said.

Noyes is a commuter student who lives in Graham, which is about 25 minutes away from PLU.

It’s not arriving to school that is the problem for these students, it is getting back home.

“Once it gets dark it’s going to ice over, so I didn’t go to class [one day] because I knew I couldn’t get back,” Noyes said.

Sophomore Brianne Ankeman has heard of similar experiences.

“I’ve had friends who are scared to drive home so they’re glad they have a friend on campus [to stay with],” Ankeman said.

First-year Micaela Ingraham, who lives 20 minutes away in North Tacoma, has been stuck on campus multiple times when she felt road conditions were too hazardous to chance driving home. Ingraham spent those night with a friend who lives on campus.

Campus safety offers non-used rooms in residence halls for commuter students who cannot make it home, but no bedding or other amenities are offered.