It’ll be a cold day to spell closing for U

Officials determine case by case whether to cancel classes because of cold weather.

by Yelena Kibasova

Students endure freezing temperatures as they walk on campus in the winter, with the hope that one day it will get so cold that University classes will finally be canceled.

But this hasn’t happened since Arne Carlson was governor in 1994. Then, classes were canceled Jan. 18 because of severely cold weather: a high of minus 16 and a low of minus 27 in the Twin Cities. The school also closed in 1991 during the Halloween blizzard.

While there aren’t set weather-related guidelines for a University shutdown, there is a process officials use to determine whether it should be closed.

“There is not a snow-inch threshold or a temperature threshold that’s fast and steady,” said Lori-Anne Williams, communications director for University Services. “It really has to do with all of the conditions and whether or not there is a safe way to run University operations as they would normally go.”

The person in charge of making the final decision to close is Tom Sullivan, the executive vice president and provost.

Leslie Krueger, University Services chief of staff, said: “We do have the severe weather protocol… that is pretty well-organized, but it is on a case-by-case basis.”

The process starts with Terry Cook, the director of Emergency Management, Krueger said. He communicates with the director of Transportation and Parking Services, who updates him on the status of the buses, roads and parking conditions. He also receives the status of snow removal and pedestrian walkways from on-call land care employees.

This information then is passed on to Kathleen O’Brien, vice president of University Services, who reviews the information and sends a recommendation to Sullivan.

“He makes the (final) decision. There is a calling tree that is implemented that University Relations maintains… that’s how the word gets down and out to people,” Krueger said.

Media such as local radio stations, television stations and newspapers are contacted. Information also is posted on the University’s home page.

“The most important thing is that we get the information to University Relations so that they can make sure that the media has the information so our students and faculty and staff can stay home if that’s what needs to happen,” Williams said.

Some departments will remain staffed even during an emergency closure.

Political science sophomore Lisa Eimer said she thinks there is too much going on at the University for it to ever fully shut down.

Like she thought, critical employees are assigned to work during emergency situations in departments such as the University Police Department, Housing and Residential Life, Emergency Management and Facilities Management.

“We have some programs that need to operate 24/7, that’s why we’re never closed,” Williams said.

Some students were reluctant to believe the University would ever shut down.

“For cold-related weather, I think it would never shut down,” said Kristina Cochran, psychology and sociology junior. “I already have to walk far away in what feels like freezing weather so I can’t imagine it ever getting to the point where they are going to close.”