Safety is priority in school cancellations

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Safety is priority in school cancellations

Students played in a patch of snow when class was cancelled.

Students played in a patch of snow when class was cancelled.

Students played in a patch of snow when class was cancelled.

Students played in a patch of snow when class was cancelled.

Staff Writer

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In less than two weeks, St. Edward’s University has seen almost the same number of cancellations due to inclement weather that Director of Communications Mischelle Diaz has seen in her eight years as a faculty member. 

On Jan. 24, at 5:45 a.m., students, faculty and staff received an email in their inbox: St. Edward’s was closed for the day. This snow day was the first of 2014, and according to Diaz, the third time she remembers school being closed due to weather issues.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, another email was sent out. “St. Edward’s is open this morning, but it is clear many will not make it to class or work on time. Please be safe and use your best judgment about driving to campus,” the alert said. As a result of this email many professors decided to cancel class even though the school had not.           

Again this past Friday, a third email was sent out. “St. Edward’s University will be closed on Friday, 02/07/14, due to inclement weather. All classes have been cancelled,” the email said.  

When dealing with inclement weather, St. Edward’s takes many factors into consideration before making a decision. Initially, the University Police Department will monitor weather news via the Austin/Travis County Emergency Operations Center, a commonplace for everyone in the Austin area to get information about what is anticipated. 

Along with UPD, St. Edward’s management team is also constantly checking weather reports. 

Diaz collaborates with the management team throughout the process. She is responsible for publicizing cancellations. 

“Our standard channels would definitely be social media. Upwards of about 80 percent of our population on campus make up our Facebook audience, so we know students, faculty and staff members are looking at those channels,” said Diaz.

In addition to social media, students, faculty and staff are contacted through the school’s text messaging system, email, the school’s daily newsletter, the home page of the school’s website and the inclement weather hotline, which has a recorded message about what is going on. 

“I received text messages since the night before. St. Edward’s was really good at keeping us in the loop, and they also sent out the weather hotline phone number so we could stay posted. Then in the morning, I received the text saying campus was closed,” Alexis Ruiz, a sophomore biology major at St. Edward’s said regarding the first cancellation.

When the university closes campus due inclement weather, all classes and athletic practices are cancelled and students are advised to stay off campus or safely indoors.

“If the university is closed, then we will not have activities on campus, because it’s closed for a reason,” said Debbie Taylor, the Director of Athletics.

Taylor expressed safety is always the primary concern when making decisions about games during inclement weather. 

“If we’re worried that a situation might not be safe, we are going to cancel or postpone because we would rather keep our students healthy and safe than to risk playing a game. A game is a game,” Taylor said. 

Diaz agreed that the main factor in closing campus is the safety of everyone in the St. Edward’s community. 

“I think it’s not a question of how bad the weather has to be, it’s more a question of is it safe to be on campus. When the university was closed on Friday (Jan. 24), the answer to that was no, because there was ice on the sidewalks and steps, and as the ice began to melt, big sheets of ice were falling off the roof. So that’s not a safe situation, and campus was closed,” Diaz said. 

On the days class was cancelled, the weather conditions ranged from below freezing temperatures, to a blend of ice and snow that created icy roads. Since Austin does not frequently receive snowfall or ice, and people have limited experience driving in icy conditions, local police and EMS officials responded to over 200 crashes in the Austin area on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 alone.

However, when classes were cancelled on Friday, there were few visible signs of ice and snow around St. Edward’s University. Some students felt that canceling school this many times in such a short time span was unnecessary. 

Brittney Justice, a sophomore global studies major, felt there was no reason to cancel class this past Friday.

“I think the first two times classes did get cancelled, there was a reason. When I looked out my window in the morning, there was ice out front and ice on my car. I’m a commuter, so it would have been difficult and dangerous to drive to classes. This past Friday, I don’t think there was that much of a viable reason for it to be cancelled. I’m not complaining, but we do pay quite a few dollars for tuition,” Justice said.

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