Snow, ice and freezing temperatures compelled ETSU to cancel classes and close administrative offices Feb. 16 through Feb. 19, and have a delayed opening Feb. 20.
Vice President for Finance and Administration David Collins said the campus was closed Monday because the forecast projected a 100 percent chance of snow, closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to icy conditions and closed Thursday due to extreme cold.
Collins said the university originally announced a two hour delay for Thursday with the intention of making a final decision Thursday morning.
“We wanted to wait, and then, when we got up and checked Thursday morning, it hadn’t changed any — the cold temperature, the wind chills,” Collins said. “[We] just decided it was too unsafe for our students to have to walk across campus and our faculty and staff to get in.”
Collins said the two-hour delay Friday was conducted because temperatures were projected to increase by 10 a.m. and the wind chill was less severe than the previous day.
Collins said ETSU President Brian Noland makes the final decision regarding school closures and delays.
“I monitor current weather as well as reviewing forecasts,” Collins said. “We also monitor campus conditions. Based on all available information, a final decision is made.”
The university received criticism from students on social media for originally announcing a two hour delay Thursday instead of canceling Friday classes.
However, the university’s decision reflected the principles outlined in the ETSU Inclement Weather Policy, Collins said. “When you’re dealing with the kind of territory we are — mountains and hollows and all those kinds of things — I certainly can’t make a judgment to keep 15,000 students away from class because of a few people who live up in a hollar and can’t get out.”
Collins said the university must consider that about half the students live on campus or in an area immediately near campus.
“We’ve got to look at where the majority of [students] are, and for those who do live more distant, that’s why we say, ‘We understand that, we want you to use your judgment as to whether you can get here or not,’” Collins said. “We certainly want everybody to be safe which is why we say that faculty have got to give you the opportunity to make up the work.”
Collins said it’s unlikely the four snow days will affect the university’s academic calendar.
“A few years ago we missed so many days we were coming close to not meeting the requirements within SAC s accreditation — three or four days doesn’t do that,” Collins said.
“The policy also says though that faculty do have an option of adding an extra class or doing what they need to do if they feel like they’ve gotten behind too far.”
When evaluating whether school should be held, Collins said there isn’t much the university can do except react to inclement weather and hope their decision corresponds with the forecast.
“If you go back many years, schools like us we just flat out didn’t close … you got here, but times have changed somewhat,” Collins said.
“People aren’t as used to driving in snow, we don’t have as much as we used to, and again safety is our primary concern for our students, faculty and staff.”