Severe 14-inch snowfall

by Erin Ghere

While a large majority of area schoolchildren stayed home Tuesday, University students dug themselves out of as much as 16 inches of snow to make it to class.
“The presumption is that we try very hard to stay open,” said Mark Cox, interim assistant vice president for the Department of Health, Safety and Transportation.
Cox makes the recommendation to University officials to cancel classes.
The first line of the University’s emergency closing policy and procedures reads, “As general practice, the University of Minnesota does not close unless the health, safety and security of University personnel and students is seriously brought into question.”
“One of the major things (Cox) considers is how accessible the campus is,” said Sharon Olson of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the office that hands down the official decision to close.
Factors for the decision, Cox said, amount to more than the amount of snow on the ground. They include: the forecast for the next day, the amount of overnight plowing and salting that has been accomplished, whether the Metro Transit and Campus Connector buses are running, what the road conditions are and the conditions of the parking lots.
“It is really situational,” he said, “and there isn’t a magic number of inches of snow. It may be an ice storm or the cold.”
However, students do not always agree with the University’s judgment.
“I think (the University) should have been closed today,” said Laura Fuller, a University education and human development junior. “One of my classes was cancelled and the other two had about half the people in them.”
Fuller said the road conditions did not affect her because she lives in an apartment near campus, but trudging through the unplowed streets and snow-bedecked sidewalks was a big hassle.
Although the University does not close often, each individual has to make a decision for themselves if they are going to brave the weather and make the trek into campus, Cox said.
“We don’t want to take the safety of people lightly, but it has to be pretty compelling,” Cox said.
The University has not closed its doors since the 1995-96 school year, when then-Gov. Arne Carlson closed all public schools because of wind chills.