A delay followed by a cancellation kept students from class Tuesday, as winter weather prevented Slippery Rock University facilities from ensuring a safe campus.
Rita Abent, the executive director of university public relations, said that due to continuous snowfall, SRU facilities were unable to clear the wet snow and ice below it by their 10 a.m. deadline, prompting the second “true cancellation” in three years.
“We figured that if campus couldn’t be cleared by 10 a.m. the best thing to do was cancel,” she said. “The health and safety of our students are always top concerns.”
“Safe” does not mean “clear down to the pavement,” Abent added, indicating that the university primarily focuses on the visibility of lines in parking lots and whether or not students can safely enter and exit buildings.
Abent said the university is obligated to hold classes if it can safely do so, noting that, in this three-year time frame, SRU has only called four delays, two evening cancellations and one other full cancellation.
“We don’t want to delay or cancel class,” she said. “People pay tuition, so we try to stick to the university schedule.”
When making a delay or cancellation decision, Abent said the university begins receiving weather reports at 4:30 a.m. Campus walkways, parking lots and roads are also assessed.
“We then ask, what are the local road conditions like?” she said, indicating that only a third of SRU students are “true commuters,” living further than three miles from campus.
Weather conditions outside this radius vary too greatly to be a determining factor, Abent continued.
“If you live north of here, you understand why we cancelled,” she said. “If you live south of here, you got rain and are looking out your window asking, ‘what the heck are they talking about?'”
Abent said that social media activity from students does not influence delay or cancellation decisions, clarifying that classes were cancelled one day last spring due to a broken snow plow, not because of student frustration over walking to class in below-zero weather.
“I actually got a call from a reporter that day saying, ‘it’s warmer, why did you cancel today?'” she said. “If it weren’t for the broken plow we would not have cancelled that day.”
Abent emphasized the effort the university makes to communicate delay and cancellation decisions to students in a reasonable time, indicating that an email was sent out as early as 5:29 a.m. and advisories were also issued through the SRU website, TV stations and social media.
Slippery Rock University reopened for normal activities on Wednesday.