Winter weather prompts administrators to enforce closure policies

Posted on Jan 25 2018 - 7:58am by Blake Alsup

Canceling classes due to winter weather can be a slippery slope for UM officials.

Two rounds of winter weather and observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day brought Ole Miss winter intersession classes to a halt for several days earlier this month.

The first closure came Jan. 12 after a winter storm of ice, sleet and snow hit the mid-South. That was supposed to be the last day of class before final exams. The school was officially open Jan. 13, the day scheduled for finals, but it was left up to professors whether to postpone them or not.

Joshua Conaway, a senior risk management and insurance major, and Nathan Eisenhut, a senior business management major, were both enrolled in an international business course that was delayed.

Their class was canceled a total of three times. Their final exam that was originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13, ended up being several days later.

“These delays were pretty frustrating just because it prevented me from leaving Oxford like I had planned to,” Conaway said. “I had to review the material more than I wanted just to keep the

Snow and ice blanketed Oxford last week, keeping campus closed last Tuesday and Wednesday. Photo by Marlee Crawford

information fresh in my mind.”

“We were supposed to have our test on Saturday, but then it got pushed to Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday,” Eisenhut said. “It didn’t necessarily take away from the experience. It was just inconvenient.”

Any decision to close the university during winter weather is ultimately made by the chancellor, based on recommendations from the provost and Crisis Action Team (CAT).

CAT is made up of representatives from the University Police Department, Facilities Management, Student Affairs and the Office of the Provost and University Communications.

Provost Noel Wilkin sat in on the meetings this month. He said winter weather closures are made largely based on how a storm may affect road conditions or campus conditions.

“It is important to gather as much information as possible in advance of the storm and as the event unfolds,” Wilkin said.

CAT relies upon the National Weather Service, the Emergency Management administrators for the city and the county and the Mississippi Department of Transportation to determine how winter weather might be affecting road conditions in the Oxford area.

University officials like to make the decision as quickly as possible, but actual weather events do not always match predictions, according to Wilkin.

“In the past, we have seen storms that were predicted to occur but did not materialize, and we also have had weather events create conditions that were worse than what was predicted,” Wilkin said.

Snow and ice blanketed Oxford last week, keeping campus closed last Tuesday and Wednesday. Photo by Marlee Crawford

CAT and provost Wilkin aim to have their recommendations made and communicated no later than an hour to 1 ½ hours before the workday begins.

“Once the final decision is made, University Communications sends out the messages,” Wilkin said.

Wilkin suggests everyone on the Ole Miss campus follow for updates on campus conditions, schedule and emergency information. The website includes information on how to handle a range of emergencies that could happen on campus.

During an emergency, the university uses various channels to alert students. Announcements are sent out through the emergency website, the LiveSafe app, email, text messages, Twitter and can be heard by calling 662-915-1040.