Administrative team determines class cancellations

Students have a snowball fight as snow continues to fall on campus in February 2015. Officials recently closed campus for potential winter weather, but little precipitation fell.

Classes were canceled after severe winter weather threatened the area Jan. 15.

When it comes to snow in Alabama, residents are not aware of how threatening it could be when driving on snow-covered roads. But, when it comes to students’ safety, the university takes precautions and stays alert to ensure no one gets hurt, said Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields.

“Can we keep walkways clear?” Shields said. “That is the type of question that comes to my mind when this type of weather occurs.”

Shields said himself, President Kenneth Kitts, Chief of Police Kevin Gillilan and Vice President of Academic Affairs John Thornell collectively decide when to close the university. The group views local weather reports and communicates with the county Emergency Management Agency and state police when discussing closure.

“When determining what is considered a risk there is no related amount (of snow we consider),” Shields said. “Predicting is an art, not a science. We try to err on the side of caution and try not to make the wrong call.”

Senior Courtney Michaels said because many students live in different areas across the Tennessee Valley, it is hard to distinguish when it is appropriate to cancel class.

“Better safe than sorry,” Michaels said. “We live in Alabama, and the weather is ridiculous to begin with. Imagine if we hadn’t called off classes when the ice storm hit last year. It would have been terrible.”

“Cancel always,” said senior Nick Walton. “Don’t take the chance. If classes are already canceled, they shouldn’t re-open (even if bad weather does not occur).”

Those who commute or live off-campus have a more difficult time arriving to classes in harsh conditions than those who live on-campus.

Freshman Matt Hatchel, who lives in Mattielou Hall, said he thinks canceling classes is fair even to students living on campus, too.

“I honestly did not expect (the university would) because I was thinking (like) someone who already lives on campus,” Hatchel said. “But I think canceling classes was a good idea for people who have to travel far distances to campus for both safety and liability reasons.”