Whether you prefer getting bronzed on a beach in the Bahamas or appreciate freezing to death in the icy tundra, it cannot be denied that only a short while ago, Centre College faced something that was nothing short of a “snowmagedon.” On Mon., Feb. 16, the College cancelled its classes, a judgment that is rare for our small, residential campus.

Junior Maya Porter recounts her experience during the terrible temperature drop that occurred later that week, after classes were reinstated. “Walking to class during the day was like a circle of hell I had not imagined for myself,” Porter said. “By the time I got to class, I could barely speak because my lips were frozen. The snot dripping down my nose turned to ice upon dripping. The temperature didn’t get better throughout the day.” Porter’s account was harsh, but true, having experienced such circumstances myself, as I’m sure many on campus did. So why wasn’t class cancelled? If the conditions were so bad that snot was freezing on our faces, why did we not call the whole day quits and stay warm in our beds?

Cento Photo | Michelle Kim Due to Centre's residential atmosphere, the college rarely cancels classes - but is that the best call?

Michelle Kim | The Cento
Due to Centre’s residential atmosphere, the college rarely cancels classes – but is that the best call?

According to Centre’s Inclement Weather Policy that can be found on the Centre Website “Centre is a highly residential campus, [and] the College historically has not closed during inclement weather… In rare circumstances, weather conditions may force cancellation of classes.  In that situation, faculty and staff members will find current information posted on the College’s website and social media channels.”

The policy, however, does not exactly define what counts as “inclement weather” and what does not. To solve this problem, a quick interview with Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Dr. Stephanie Fabritius said what the policy actually means.

“When there is a forecast of possibly treacherous weather (big snows, ice, etc.), then [Director of Public Safety] Gary Bugg and I meet up very early in the morning in order to assess the situation.  We have to make a determination of whether it is too dangerous for the majority of folks to travel to campus and/or for students to be moving around campus.  Is the snow so deep that sidewalks cannot be kept clear?  Is it so icy all over campus that moving around at all is dangerous?  Is the heat out in the buildings, such that there is no respite from the cold in the buildings?  Are the roads so impassable that no driving is possible?  Is the ice so thick on the trees that falling limbs might make passage on campus dangerous?” Dean Fabritius said.  “Those are the kinds of factors that we assess.  Because we are highly residential, there are many situations where it is clear that students can and should make their way to class.  After all, you are going to have to make your way from your residence halls to the Campus Center for meals.”

But what about the faculty? They have to travel to the campus and attend these classes as well.

“Since the majority of faculty and staff live nearby in Danville, we assess whether they can safely make it to campus.  If that is all true, then we do not cancel or delay class, allowing individual faculty and staff to make their own decision as per the inclement weather policy,” Dean Fabritius said.

So do the students agree with this policy? Porter doesn’t seem to.

“I think Centre should have canceled more classes or delayed them at least. Kentucky was in a ‘state of emergency!’ So I definitely think that should have been brought into consideration. When the weather was a bit better and the sidewalks were clearer it would have been okay to open classes. The parking lot wasn’t clear until the end of last week. That’s ridiculous. I had to leave campus because I had an important doctor’s appointment. It took about 2 hours and 4 football players to get the snow out from around my car, then another hour to get my car out of the spot.”

Does Centre agree? Does it look back on that terrible week and regret not closing more classes? Dean Fabritius says no.

“The very low temperatures we recently experienced were not such that it was dangerous, if properly dressed, to make one’s way from the residence halls to the Campus Center for meals or to the classrooms for class. One of the big differences with regard to the weather issues between our campus and[the University of Kentucky], for example, is that we are highly residential. Even if classes are cancelled, the campus is not closed, and many offices and services remain open.  For example, during the big snow last Monday, even with classes cancelled, the library was open, Sodexho served food, DPS was monitoring the campus, ITS was open, facilities maintenance workers were here, and many other campus offices remained open.  We also had candidates for faculty positions here ready to interview.”

There you have it, folks. It seems that it does make sense for Centre to remain open being as we have so little way to travel to get to our classes. But at the same time, is it really all that reasonable to have snot freezing on our noses? This demonstrates two things. One, you can’t please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. As Dean Fabritius points out in her interview, there were people who believed that classes should not have even been cancelled when they were. So really, no matter what policy Centre chooses, there will always be those who disagree. The second conclusion to take away from all of this—the grand lesson, if you will—is that we should clearly move Centre’s campus to Hawaii, where problems like this don’t exist. Anyone in?

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