Campus News

When and why does Bethel have snow days?

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Classes were cancelled due to inclement weather on Thursday, Jan. 8, Friday, Jan. 9, and Monday, Feb. 2. However, Mishawaka had severe weather on many more days since then, which left students wondering why some days were cancelled when others were not. Who makes this decision? IMG_7693-300x200“It’s not one person,” said Vice President for Academic Services Dr. Barb Bellefeuille, who is part of the decision-making process when it comes to cancelling classes. “It doesn’t happen in a bubble, the president (Gregg Chenoweth) or I don’t just wake up and decide. We watch the weather prediction, a circle of discussion takes place, and we just start talking.” As for what factors into the administration’s thought process on days with rough weather, Bellefeuille had many thoughts. “The timing of the snow, the amount of snow, and how quickly it’s going to come, all those things come into play,” said Bellefeuille. “What happened the first two days we missed was mostly the cold. What threshold of wind chill is too much for a student (to walk across campus)?” When school was cancelled on Jan. 8 and 9, the temperature was around 5 degrees Fahrenheit with winds blowing around 17 miles per hour (via Weather Underground). “Anytime the county calls an emergency, we feel we have to abide by that,” said Bellefeuille. “We look at who else is closed, like all the K-12 schools. You have to think of safety, and you’re never that popular on the day that you make the call. 'Why didn’t you call it earlier, wasn’t it obvious?’ and then you have those who say ‘I can’t believe you didn’t call this day off’." Last week was particularly tough for the administration. “Like Friday last week was rough, but it didn’t seem to be severe enough to call off,” said Bellefeuille. “It wasn’t until the end of the day (on Thursday) that it got really severe. The worst thing that could happen is you say ‘Let’s have school’ and somebody gets into a terrible accident. But you have to keep an eye on the academic calendar.” So, if this bad weather continues and more days have to be cancelled, will that have any effect on the academic calendar? “We do not have a policy in place because it’s never happened,” said Bellefuielle. “We don’t add days to the end, graduation is graduation, you just can’t in college. The first time we lost a Thursday and Friday, and then we lost a Monday, so so far nobody has missed twice. If that starts happening, I’d start having a conversation with staff and faculty.” Having multiple people involved makes the decision easier, as different people factor in different aspects of the campus. "The process can begin with anybody, usually with me, the President, or (Assistant Director of Physical Plant) Butch Breedlove,” said Bellefeuille. After the first day of classes, Thursday, Jan. 8 was cancelled, Bellefeuille thought that the school would be okay on Friday. “At about five in the morning, I got that phone call (from Breedlove),” said Bellefeuille. “He (Breedlove) is thinking, ‘can we get the campus ready’, because we can’t put you all in a dangerous situation here,” There are others worried about safety on and off campus. Vice President of Adult and Graduate Studies Toni Pauls has to think about evening classes, and Bellefeuille noted that she and Chenoweth focus on students and staff, which includes food service, maintenance, and housekeeping. “Students living on campus, they’ll be fine,” she said. “Sodexo has to come in and feed them, and maintenance has to be here. They have to make sure everything is functioning, like in the science building,I hate to be blunt, but the cadaver has to stay cool. Those people have to come in, god bless them. It really becomes commuters, and faculty and staff. 2000 people come to campus every day. Of those people, 1200 don’t live here.” While we have had three snow days this year, we still have not beaten the Bethel record for most days cancelled in a semester. Last year, four days were cancelled, although two of those occurred before students were not required to be on campus. Only faculty was supposed to report to school on those days.
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