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Student Senate passes inclement weather motion

April 4, 2014

Student Senate pushed through a motion after continued debate in order to change the way the administration handles inclement weather.

Senator Chris Morgan, one of the senators heavily involved in the motion, said that making a change to the way the inclement weather policy is utilized was one of the promises he made to voters before getting elected.

“We heard a lot of feedback from students saying they weren’t happy at all with how things were being run and handled,” Morgan said.

The passed motion does not have any specific language outlining exact temperatures or snowfall amounts that should occur for classes to be cancelled because there was not enough support from some senators to pass that language, according to Morgan.

“For instance, they felt in was unreasonable to say ‘if it’s -40 degrees we shouldn’t be in class,’” Morgan said. “They didn’t want to put a number out there.”

One specific request Senate has for the administration is to give 12 hours notice if classes will be delayed or cancelled due to winter storms or extreme temperatures. However, Special Assistant to the Chancellor Blake Fry said that giving that amount of notice is often unrealistic because of how quickly forecasts can change, so making a decision that far ahead could result in classes being cancelled with a minimal amount of snow actually accumulating.

Fry said that there are many factors that go into making the decision on whether or not to cancel classes, including looking at the timing of the storm, how heavy and wet the snow will be, road conditions and how quickly snow can be removed from parking lots. He said that the chancellor also consults with maintenance staff, the National Weather Service chat room and the Department of Transportation websites.

“We bring a lot of information into the process already,” Fry said.

Senate President Sam Tauchen will be meeting with Provost Fernando Delgado this semester to begin negotiations on how to begin making recommendations.

“Honestly, we get a lot of recommendations from people as a winter storm or as temperatures drop, we get input from a lot of people,” Fry said. “Believe it or not, it is one of the most complex decisions the chancellor has to make.”

Morgan said that one concern students continue to have is the safety of campus sidewalks, which he said lack adequate salting, resulting in injury.

“We want them to allow us to give more opinions on whether we think it’s safe to have class that day,” Morgan said.

Fry said that school districts often have school cancelled or delayed more often than college campuses because of the busing system. Many school districts have children waiting for long periods of time at bus stops or there are rural bus routes that may prove difficult to navigate after a winter storm. College campuses, on the other hand, do not have to worry about busing and many students live on or near campus.

“It becomes a challenge because no matter what decision, you are not going to make someone happy,” Fry said. “It’s an unpopular decision no matter what you do.”

Morgan mentioned that next year there will be a new Senate that may be more susceptible to broader changes, so a phase two of the inclement weather motion may make an appearance in order to get more specific language passed. He said that students with concerns about the current inclement weather policy, which is available on uwrf.edu, should contact members of Senate or stop by the Senate office in the Involvement Center.