The blizzard is over, and now we’re just buried knee-high in snow. It’s also finals week at UMM, and we’ve just received a note from the administration that classes are not cancelled, but that “students, faculty, and staff should use their judgment when deciding whether or not travel to campus”. Nice way to dodge any responsibility at all!
Fortunately, the first final I have to give is tomorrow, so we may be dug out by then.
At least you have a certain amount of discretion left to you about whether you should risk life and/or limb.
It took years to get through to our public school districts’ administrative heads that if it was too severe for school to be open for the students, it was likewise too severe for staff. Went through a lot of dockage grievances for many years because of that — well, that and inconsistent application of the “rule.”
Tom Woolf says
Professor PZ – as the professor, will you be given any leeway to give make-up tests if students cannot make it to their scheduled test period? If not, the weaselly announcement by the university’s administration is, well, weaselly and dangerous.
Same situation in NW iowa. Everyone has a two-hour late start except for the local community college.
That happened to me two winters ago. We had a doozy of an ice storm and the Univ. North Texas admin. didn’t cancel finals, they just told everyone to use their own judgment. I had a 30 minute drive, including crossing two bridges over Lake Lewisville. I left an hour and a half early and made it just on time…six out of 29 made it, so the prof. postponed the test until later in the week. I guess my judgment was faulty.
Would it have hurt them to declare that the college administration would approve weather-related grades of “Incomplete” and facilitate the arrangement of makeup exams where necessary? It sounds instead like a simple “duck and cover” on their part.
Benjamin Geiger says
Shorter version: “It’s up to you to decide whether your grade is worth risking your life.”
My first alma mater had rules against off-campus living—it was an old Methodist college—so only a handful of students commuted. (In order to live off campus, you had to either be married or living with your parents. I lived with my parents at the time, as I was 14.) So, class was virtually never canceled for inclement weather, but all of my instructors were very understanding of travel difficulties.
Now I live in Florida. Snow obviously isn’t a concern.
“Risking your life” …
I live in Norway. Temperature and snow conditions are never any excuse for missing work/class; indeed I have never experienced any kind of breakdown in communication etc. because of such things, regardless of whether there is 6 feet of snow and 40 degrees below zero. Indeed, I don’t think anyone here would even suggest that this should be any kind of excuse for anything, just something you’re prepared for during winter – how can this lead you to “risk your life”?? My point is: I can understand that places in Texas and Southern California or something might have trouble in dealing with unexpected snow, but in Minnesota? Shouldn’t you be kinda used to it?
Tom Woolf says
At the University of Rochester (NY), you would think that at least one day of classes would have been delayed or canceled over a 4-year period, but no such luck. It was (and probably still is) predominantly a residential campus, with a small percentage of students living off-campus. But daytime classes were NEVER canceled (1980-1984), just evening classes twice.
Though a small university, some of the dorms were a half mile or more from the main campus, and buses were packed during good weather. Trudging through foot+ deep snow (uphill, BOTH WAYS!!!) was a right of passage, and an expected task.
No harm, no foul – never got frostbite, and generally things were fine after a hot cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate (until the next day’s trek).
Cathy W says
During my time there (early ’90s), I was told that the University of Michigan hadn’t cancelled classes since some time in the ’70s. Allegedly the reason for this was that the last time they did it, some joker sued for a refund of one day’s worth of tuition, and they weren’t giving anyone an excuse to try it again.
This meant that on more than one occasion, I slogged across campus in knee-deep snow and biting wind at 8:30 in the morning to find a note on the door that the professor was not coming in.
Hairy Doctor Professor says
Here in western Massachusetts our university has a “snow day” automatically built-in to the tail end of the fall semester final exam schedule. On any day where there’s too much snow and ice for people to move around safely, finals for that day are bumped forward to the snow day. Works pretty well, and not often invoked. Of course, when it does happen most students have already made their travel plans to blow out of town as soon their scheduled finals are over, which invariably is before the snow day. It’s a calculated risk on their part, which sometimes bites them (and us).
What? No not you, It’s freaking freezing here!
Nerd of Redhead says
When I worked in the UP, there was only one day the University closed while I was there. I think we had about 24″ of snow, and whiteout conditions. A number of Profs kept a pair of cross country skis or snow shoes for just such days.
Indeed, I don’t think anyone here would even suggest that this should be any kind of excuse for anything, just something you’re prepared for during winter – how can this lead you to “risk your life”??
Because most places here don’t have public transportation or walkability – everyone drives. Especially in the first storms of the season, everyone drives badly. Even once they all acclimate to winter driving, sometimes the wind/snow combination can make visibility poor to shitty, and it’s hard to fight wind that’s whipping across plains like in Minnesota. Oh, and then there’s the ice all over the roads.
Chris Taylor says
Those lucky dogs better show up. I would love to have a class taught by PZ Myers.
Brownian, OM says
I’ve no doubt many of my more, er, delicate coworkers won’t show up today. But at -25°C/-13°F (-34°C/-20°F with wind chill), who can really blame them, the lazy pikers?
It’s been three years since I wrote my last December final, and boy do I miss writing exams–there’s something about being able to earn 60%-80% of one’s grade in two hours that appeals to the efficient pragmatist in me.
So for those of you who are writing exams (or later, grading them), all the best, and know that I’m living vicariously through you. (And if you can make one of your wandering proctors laugh with a dumb pun, well FSM bless you!)
The Perky Skeptic says
LOL– and here in Tennessee, my county declared a Snow Day last Friday, despite there being no snow on the ground nor ice on the roads! I think the teachers were just reeeeeeeeeally wanting a long weekend. :D
Brownian, OM says
Colleagues of mine in Calgary left early on Friday afternoon as the snow and wind had whipped up into a whiteout. Add a gust of wind to drifting snow on icy roads (caused by good ol’ fashioned prairie malevolence or a passing loser in an SUV), and you’ll soon learn that the direction of travel of a vehicle and the orientation of its tires are sometimes only tangentially related.
Brownian, OM says
Scienceblogs is all wonky and cut off my comment. (Either that, or it’s developed sentience and has decided I’m much too long-winded.)
Further, with sufficient windchill, those who walk run the risk of minor to moderate frostbite to any exposed skin, no matter how otherwise well-ensconced in nylon and fleece.
This weather is inconvenient enough for those of us with the economic wherewithal to prepare ourselves for it, but sadly, severe cold snaps kill a few dozen of our homeless every year.
It was 82 here in Austin yesterday.
Not today though.
For Shame PZ; ragging on the ‘Ministration…good thing ya gots tenure.
Southeastern Iowa is currently in the deep freeze – only one out of 27 of my students didn’t show up for the first final this frigid Monday morning.
It’s a good thing that the computers still work. Unfortunately, our administration chose a Jenzabar product for its learning management system; I’m going back to Blackboard next semester. Become a rebel, just like Prof. Myers.
Benjamin Geiger says
Perky Skeptic @ #16:
Are you sure it wasn’t a preplanned day? The school schedule in my county has built-in days to make up for lost time due to hurricanes. If no school closings are necessary, then those days become vacation days.
Have none of you guys in the north heard of snow chains? They seem to work in Europe…
when I was a lad (cue Monty Python joke here) we never stopped for snow, even if it was 2 or 3 feet deep (enormois for England). Nowadays, the schools close down if any one so much as sees snow in his dreams. Health and Safety again (sigh!). They’re all afraid of being sued in case poor Johnny slips and grazes his knees.
Patricia, OM says
Some of my chicken eggs froze and broke.
Brownian, OM says
Yes, we have. And we’ll hear about them in detail from the cop that pulls us over for using them, as they’re illegal here for the damage they cause to the roads.
Not closed for snow in my memory, but, Stanford had closed for earthquake (1 day) mostly due to the administration not being sure the buildings were safe to have classes in (a few turned out not to be). I think it has also closed or partially closed for flood (though a large number of students were roused out at 3am to rescue books in the basement level of the library).
The Great Spirit says
When I read this post, “Digging Out” I couldn’t help thinking of Lord Buckley.
If you’ve never heard of His Lordship, DIG THIS!
How about some spoken word from Lord Buckley?
Pleased, flipped and grooved
by this very, very gracious group of lords and ladies here,
at the Marquis de Moople’s Travelling Palace of Joy.
Like I splained to you before I’m a people worshiper.
I think people should worship people. I really do.
I went out looking for God the other day and I couldn’t pin him.
So I figured if I couldn’t find him I’d look for his stash.
His Great Lake of Love that holds the whole world in gear.
And when I finally found it I had the great pleasure of finding
that people were the guardians of it. Dig that.
So with my two times two is four,
I figured that if people were guarding the stash of Love known as God,
then when people swing in beauty they become little gods and goddesses.
And I know a couple of them myself personally.
I know you do, too.
I think people should worship people.
I like to worship somethin’ I can see,
somethin’ I can get my hands on,
get my brains on.
I don’t know about that Jehovah cat!
I can’t reach him. I don’t know, I’m …
Seemed like every time I found myself in a bind I always, uh,
nothing mystic came along to help me,
some man or some woman stepped up there, and said, “We’ll help you.
We’ll do this. We’ll do that.”
That’s the way it looks to me, so, uh,
recently on the San Berdoo Freeway
I got hung up in an old junker car
goin’ to Las Vegas Nevada.
Right in the middle of the freeway
during the rush hour it conked out.
Car…rrr, rrr, rrr, rrr drivin’ it…Hrrpp…got a weak clutch…
whadda ya doin’ let it in…don’t step on it…
Oh, it was a madhouse,
like havin’ lunch in the middle of the Indianapolis Speedway.
About three days went by and finally along came God.
There was two of ’em.
There was a big god and a little god.
They didn’t know me from a,… fromma.
But they pushed and they pulled and they tugged and twisted
and they yanked and they gave me every possible assistance
in the world and finally got me on my way.
Haven’t seen them since.
But I think that people,
I hope I haven’t offended anyone’s religious beliefs,
but I think, I think that people should worship people.
I really do.
Ick of the East says
I picked 24 big beautiful mangoes off my mango tree yesterday.
So I feel your …. Oh. No I don’t!
1. Buy a compass.
2. See that S on the compass?
3. Follow it.
4. When you reach a place where shorts and flip-flops feel comfortable in December, stay there!
Gerry L says
Hey, PZ, Judy Woodruff just mentioned Morris, MN, on the PBS News Hour. It was an item about the cold weather in the Midwest.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we are chillin’ too. (Hey, low 20s is cold for us.) I anticipate working from home maybe all week so I don’t have to go out on the icey roads.
regardless of whether there is 6 feet of snow and 40 degrees below zero. Indeed, I don’t think anyone here would even suggest that this should be any kind of excuse for anything, just something you’re prepared for during winter
I’m from Wisconsin (next door to Minnesota) and I can tell you here that there are days you can NOT go out without risking your life.
Ice storms are the worst – rain falls and freezes, coating everything with a layer of ice – impossible to drive on. Tire chains are illegal for everyone but first responders (police officers, EMTs/Ambulance, fire etc).
No one I know is properly “prepared” for winter driving here, as we have 9 months without snow – we get used to driving with plenty of traction and then we forget how hard it is to drive on the slick stuff. Plus, we don’t notice our tread depth until it’s too late and we’re sliding into the guy in front.
Plus, we have too many roads and not enough plows to take care of a 6″ snowfall (it takes sometimes up to 3 days to fully clear the smaller roads after a serious snowstorm) Sometimes those folks out in the country are stranded for a day or two.
Three days ago it was 38 degrees (3C) and raining, today it’s -10 (-23C) We get buffeted sometimes all winter by the weirdest temperature shifts that sometimes make getting to work/school impossible for all but the bravest, or most foolhardy.
Tom Woolf says
A lot of times traveling in those conditions is dangerous not because of what you are doing, but what the other bozo is doing. 10 winters ago, my first in Raleigh, North Carolina, we had predictions of 6 inches of snow. Now, that is nothing for northern climes, but Raleigh does not have the equipment to clear roads, and they become dangerous very quickly.
Having learned to drive in Buffalo, NY, I commented to a coworker (and ex-cop) that 6″ is not bad to drive in, you just have to be careful. He looked at me, laughed, and said “you can drive in it because you learned in snow… I can drive in it because I went through driving school as a cop…. the other 8 of 10 folks on the road have no clue as to how to drive in snow.”
I’ve seen many, many examples of that over the years here. Lots of sports cars in ditches, lots of rear-end collisions due to not breaking early enough, lots of spinning cars. I for one refuse to play bumber-cars with those 8 of 10.