By Abigail Frazier, Staff Writer –
Many students praise the emails announcing school cancellations due to inclement weather, but after a second thought, a university shut down can surprisingly cause more negative impacts than positive.
The first week of spring semester 2018 flew by due to a four-day week. Immediately following, the second week completely halved UTC functioning time by cancellations due to two snow days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
UTC has its share of inclement weather days from heavy rain storms, solar eclipses, and threats of ice, but the difference of inclement weather days in 2018 is that UTC’s first two weeks on campus lacked important class time, which created a rocky start for the new year.
When asked what his first reaction to the cancellation email was, senior Zach Mashburn from Knoxville, TN, said, “Absolute relief. Winter is so miserable in Chattanooga. Once a snow day hits, everyone gets to breathe for a second.”
While double majoring in Spanish Language Culture and Business Marketing, Mashburn also works on campus as a language lab assistant. When campus closed for two days, Mashburn was out of a job.
He explained, “It didn’t mess with my work schedule, but I needed a job. Scholastically, it put us behind. You double the work the next week to catch up for what we missed on the syllabus and I have to pick up more work hours to make up for what I lost.”
First Mashburn exclaimed with relief for the cancellation of school, but ultimately, it negatively affected the scheduling for the Spanish department and he lost money through it.
For junior Rebecca King, this is her third semester as a Nursing major. When she first received the email about the snow day, she was filled with dread.
“My mind was thinking about all of the things that I would have to makeup or would be moved because of it,” King said.
As a Nursing major, once or twice a semester there are check offs, which is where the professor grades your learning skills in the course. According to King, students receive two chances to pass the check offs and if the students fails, then they fail out of the nursing program for that semester.
Tuesday and Wednesday were King’s chances to practice before her check offs on Thursday. With school cancelled, her practice time was pushed back to one day instead of two.
“They had to change the schedule all day on Friday so our check offs could be then instead of Thursday. Literally everything had to be moved around. They did extend the lab hours for us to practice on Thursday, but it was still stressful,” King said.
From missing work to missing check offs, snow days may appear to be relaxing at first, but when campus completely closes down, work time is missed, which in can cause stress for students and professors alike.
In the words of UTC Safety and Risk Management Director Bob Jackson, “Much like taking a planned vacation, the off-day can be nice in the short-term, but the work still must be completed when we return.”
Jackson explained the decision-making process when it comes to closing campus for safety reasons.
“The foremost focus is does the weather create an unsafe condition on or around campus for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors?” he stated.
Even though UTC is prepared and equipped to make the right decision for events like these, days are not allotted for when campus needs to close down. Therefore, professors are not required to leave slack room for when the schedule gets pushed back for cancellation of school. Safety comes first, but that does not mean it comes without stress.
Not only does work pile up for students and professors, but the same occurs for the rest of UTC’s staff.
Jackson explains, “For those departments, like mine, whose workload increases, due to operations to prepare for and response to the weather, like Facilities, Safety [and] Police, it’s just another day keeping the UTC community safe. Sometimes we work even longer hours when the campus is closed, but safety is our job and it is what we love to do.”
In addition to the Safety and Risk Management department campus police, security and dispatchers also ensure students, campus and staff are safe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Grounds and Facilities ensure that the roads and parking lots are constantly protected against the weather, like putting ice melt down for snow. Even during those previous snow days, Crossroads was up and running due to the workers for UTC’s food partnership Aramark contributing to the students.
When UTC shuts down for inclement weather professors still get paid.
“Employees who would have normally worked the day on which UTC was closed are paid under the category of Unscheduled Administrative Closure,” Jackson said.
However, this does bring up the question of whether or not UTC loses money during snow days.
According to Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance Tyler Forrest
According to Jackson, “When the weather turns bad, we ask everyone to take their steps a little slower, drive more cautiously, and help out your neighbors.”