Campus News

Cold spell freezes classes, delays annual World Christian Action Conference

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snowOffices were closed and classes were canceled for two consecutive days here at Bethel College due to extreme winter weather conditions. This was the second time during the month of January that the campus was officially closed; the first time occurred just before the return of students to campus and the start of classes for the spring semester. “We do what we believe is best to protect our students and our faculty and staff, who have to travel,” said Vice President of Student Development Shawn Holtgren. “Certainly the cold was an element. It wasn’t just travel conditions; it was the temperatures that would drop, with windchill, between 20 and 30 below. That was dangerous for people to be out and walking to class.” A travel warning was issued on Tuesday, Jan. 28 by the city of South Bend as well as by St. Joseph County. Those caught driving for non-emergency reasons were subject to potential fines of up to $2,500. “This was extraordinary,” said Holtgren. “I don’t remember the last time we closed for two days in a row when classes were in session.” Even Sufficient Grounds closed for the weather. “We did not have the staff to keep all three food options open,” explained Sodexo General Manager Jim Metherd. “Popularity and proximity to student dorms were also factors in the decision to close Sufficient Grounds for the day.” According to Metherd, the Dining Commons is one of the most popular food options on campus, and therefore was chosen to remain open instead of Sufficient Grounds due to their proximity to each other. The Acorn also remained open because it is located in the basement of the Sailor Residence Facility. Students, however, spent their time catching up on homework and sleep, or simply enjoying an unexpected break. “I pretended like I was doing homework, while in actuality accomplishing nothing with my life,” said Amber Elder, senior. “It was beautiful.” A few members of the Student Life staff spent part of their day Monday on campus, making sure that all was running smoothly, as well as to simply spend time with students. “I came in basically just to make sure that things at the college were running well,” said Holtgren. “I had a great time. I ended up spending an hour in the Dining Commons in the morning and two hours at the lunch period, just meeting with students, hanging out and talking. I find these types of incidents really fun and engaging to get to know students and interact with them outside of my normal duties and responsibilities.” The annual World Christian Action Conference has also been postponed to April 14-16. “I had one chapel cancellation there, and one that I could move,” said Holtgren. “That would free up a Monday and a Wednesday for the conference.” Holtgren said that, although they are working to plan the schedule for the conference, this was quite unexpected. “We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” said Holtgren. “And if we would have missed just one day, just Monday, then I still would have done it this week and we would have rearranged some things. But since we missed two days, I thought, let’s refocus this and do it another time.” Because of this postponement, the schedule for the conference will also be slightly different this year. The traditional Monday night and Tuesday night sessions have been eliminated from this year’s conference; however, the panel discussions will still be a part of the conference, according to Holtgren. The Bethel College campus reopened at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29 and classes resumed as normal.
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