Winter weather closure policy changes coming soon

The first snowfall of the season begins to cover the Cougar statue outside the Morris University Center on Nov. 11.

Changes to SIUE’s emergency closure policies could be in effect by the time students return from Thanksgiving break, according to Chancellor Randy Pembrook.

A number of the changes to the policy were originally suggested in a resolution from Student Government, including a set temperature that would require cancellation of classes, a defined window for when the university will make the decision to cancel classes and clarification of some terms like “essential personnel.”

SG’s resolution came after an especially cold day last January where temperatures reached -24 degrees with the wind chill. SIUE received 656 comments on their Facebook post about the school not closing and 75 Twitter thread replies as of Wednesday morning. (The school’s last 10 posts on Twitter and Facebook have both received two comments in total.)

According to Pembrook, the biggest change is the new policy has a cutoff point for the university to close due to cold or wind chill.

“So, there is a section in there now that says if the temperature drops to negative 15 or a wind chill of 22 below zero for a sustained period of time — defined as four hours or more — that becomes in and of itself as a reason for closure,” Pembrook said.

Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker used a National Weather Service chart on wind chill, time outside and temperature to set the cutoff points for closure. The policy is designed to protect students from frostbite for up to 30 minutes of exposed skin outdoors in harsh conditions, according to Walker.

“Under those guidelines, the event that we had in January would’ve fallen under those by two degrees and would have likely ticked the closure mechanism,” Walker said.

James Beverly III, science and math student senator for the College of Arts and Sciences and junior economics major from Los Angeles said he felt university administrators followed the spirit of their resolution, even if they made a few changes.

“They just changed the temperature differences, which was explained [as being] just because we thought it would be a 30-minute walk to get across campus when it’s really just 15 minutes”

There are other winter weather conditions that could cause a closure, like ice or snow on roads.

Pembrook said that part of the problem with deciding when to close the campus due to ice is the fact that students and faculty are coming in from all over the area, and road conditions are not the same everywhere.

“Anytime when it’s 32 [degrees] or below there are going to be some places that are nasty,” Pembrook said. “It’s just a hard call to know … is it enough [to cancel classes]? Ice is tricky.”

Last week was the first snow of the season, but Pembrook said he did not have many complaints about keeping the university open.

“The thing that I heard was that some people were worried about icy roads, particularly icy roads in the St. Louis area. But I didn’t get any notes, and a lot of the time I get notes,” Pembrook said.

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