To close, or not to close

JULIANNE STRIBIAK | Staff Reporter

Extreme cold paired with snow and ice has left students wondering if classes will be delayed or cancelled many times in 2014.

Last week, students had two delayed starts due to cold temperatures. Campus was also closed from 5 p.m. last night until 10 a.m. this morning, as of press time.

Students, faculty and staff are also notified of closures, cancellations and delays through DawgAlert system, which delivers messages by email and text, Chief of Staff Ben Hunter said.

There are various reasons for cancelling classes, closing the university, or putting a delay in place, Hunter said.

“Each weather event is unique,” he said. “In rare cases, where forecasted wind chills are less than 20 degrees, temperatures alone can necessitate a delay. In the most recent delays, both factors came into play, along with a request from the city of Indianapolis to implement a delay.”

There are no hard and fast rules, Assistant Police Chief Bill Weber said.

“It’s not if it hits this temperature, or if the snow fall hits “x” number of inches, we will then delay or close,” Weber said. “No, what the university does is they look at declarations from the mayor’s office.”

Hunter said Butler’s internal “Snow Team” evaluates many factors, which include amount and timing of snow and ice, temperatures, wind and any relevant traffic advisories.

The “Snow Team” consists of Ben Hunter; Bruce Arick, vice president of administration and finance; Kate Morris, Provost and vice president of academic affairs; Matthew Mindrum, vice president of marketing and communications; and Rich Michal, executive director of operations.

Butler’s decision to cancel or delay classes is not strictly based on other school’s decisions, but their decisions are taken into consideration, Michal said.

Some Butler students expressed their opinions on the issue through a Twitter page titled, “Is Butler Closed?” displaying a list of neighboring high schools and churches that were closed while Butler was still open.

“I feel that just delaying classes for two hours but still having a class in session is pointless,” sophomore Jenna Gerber said. “Why even have the delay if we are going to have class anyways?”

There are many reasons for a two-hour delay, Hunter said.

Hunter said, in most cases, delays provide needed time for the campus grounds crew to clear sidewalks, roads and parking lots.

“We have 295 acres on campus that we are responsible for clearing,”  Michal said. “We are responsible for clearing 3.3 miles of streets, 9.5 miles of sidewalks and 42 acres of parking lots.

“We also have to hand shovel 589 steps, doorways and ramps, or about 57 acres overall,” he said.

In regard to recent delays, which were implemented because of low temperature rather than snow, many students did not agree with the delay and, instead, supported a cancellation.

Sophomore Jim Santos posted a tweet last week that said, “A two hour delay doesn’t really do anything because it’s going to be freezing all day regardless…come on Butler.”

Santos said he thinks Butler should have cancelled classes because the weather does not change that much in two hours.

The wind chill advisory was in effect until 1 p.m. but, classes began at 10 a.m., according to a campus-wide email from Butler.

“Even five minutes outside can be a safety issue in that kind of temperature,” Santos said. “I feel like a lot of people caught a cold within those two days of delays because of having to walk outside. And now that cold is being passed from people to people.”

Dawg Ride makes rounds all day during delays, and the Office of the President rented a shuttle bus for students as well, Weber said.

The concern of safety is mutual among students and staff.

Gerber said she had a 9:35 a.m. class that started only 25 minutes later because of the delay.

“I understand why the delays are put in place but, a question I have is, how is walking to class 30 minutes later than usual safer for me than when I would usually walk if the weather is that bad?” Gerber said.

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There will be times that announced delays overlap or interrupted the class grid, Hunter said.

“We try hard to consider many factors,” Hunter said, “But we can’t consider everyone’s individual class schedule.”

In cases of heavy snow and ice, Hunter said grounds crew staff report several hours before the school’s anticipated opening and have a set route established for clearing campus sidewalks, roads, and parking lots.

The first priority is sidewalks at residential facilities, Hunter said. The grounds crew work until all sidewalks, roads, and parking lots have been cleared.

“Once we get done with the streets and sidewalks, at about 5 a.m. is when the rest of the crew shows up to start the hand shoveling,” Michal said.

Michal said in cases where there is anticipation for getting “hit hard” with extreme temperatures, snow and ice, other building services staff pitch in to help.

“All of a sudden not only is my plumber out there shoveling snow, but my janitor is out there shoveling snow too,” Michal said.

“Some of my staff may just stay overnight and work through the night,” he said.

Michal said all staff are considered essential and are expected to come in to work even in case of a closing to make sure students can get to dining halls.

“Now we also expect them to use their judgment,” Michal said. “We don’t want anyone to do anything unsafe.”

The same goes for faculty and staff.

When the campus remains open during adverse weather, employees must use their best judgment when it comes to commuting to and from the workplace, according to the Adverse Weather Procedures page on Butler’s website.

The page explains that faculty and staff should make every effort to notify their supervisors if they cannot get to work or plan to leave early.

Although, Hunter said, no deviation of an official delay or closure should occur unless otherwise announced to the campus community.

This brings about the concern on campus of the amount of freedom professors are given in regards to complying with cancelations and delays.

Hunter said the current procedures are under review and he will be workin and getting feedback from numerous college deans on the issue.

“This has been an unusual winter and it warrants a review,” Hunter said. “In my time at Butler, I can’t recall this many delays or closures.”

In case of future weather delays or cancellations, students can also find updates posted on the butler.edu homepage, local radio and TV stations and via Twitter by following @DawgAlert and

@ButlerU.

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