Campus closes due to weather conditions

Katherine Schaeffer

Kent State cancelled classes on the Kent campus today after temperatures, forecasted to plunge below zero, got the attention of university officials. Officials made the announcement Monday afternoon with a Flash Alert, cancelling classes for the first time this winter.

The cancellations, although uncommon for the Kent campus, come at the end of a month characterized by the “polar vortex,” a weather system that brought frigid temperatures to Northeast Ohio. On Jan. 7, wind chills bottomed out at 40 degrees below zero — the coldest on record since 1994, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures today are forecasted to dip as low as 20 degrees below zero with the wind chill.

In a FlashLine announcement in November, Gregg Floyd, vice president for finance and administration, wrote: “Generally speaking, the university does not cancel classes for cold weather, and winter ice conditions rarely prompt the cancellation of classes or campus closing.”

University officials adhered to this policy Monday morning, keeping Kent’s main campus open even as its regional campuses and other nearby colleges, such as the University of Akron, cancelled classes due to freezing temperatures and snow.

“The weather was warmer this morning, so we didn’t see a physical need to close,” said Tom Euclide, associate vice president of facilities planning and operations and one of the officials in charge of the decision to cancel classes.

But by 1 p.m., the university issued a FlashAlert, announcing afternoon class cancellation. And by 6 p.m., the Student Center, which usually closes at 11 p.m., had locked its doors and sent its employees home.

University spokesman Eric Mansfield said that the university errs on the side of safety when considering whether to close campus. Officials consider overall conditions on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re closing because of the combination of the severe cold, the wind chill advisory that’s been put out and the winds that accompany that,” Mansfield said. “So the combination of all of those factors.”

Some students felt that in addition to Monday’s bitter cold, snow had not been properly cleared from campus sidewalks, making their trek to classes slippery and dangerous.

Senior Pan African studies major Marvin Logan, who uses a wheelchair to get around after surgery, said that the sloppily cleared sidewalks made it difficult for him to get to class.

“I was disappointed in the state of the grounds,” Logan said. “I wasn’t opposed to going to class ,but the state of the sidewalks makes it difficult for campus accessibility. I’m just six months out of surgery, and it was difficult for disabled students to get around.”

Jaymi Baxter, a junior integrated health states major, said that although campus roads were plowed, the sidewalks remained snow covered.

“They should have closed campus,” Baxter said. “Even though it was plowed, I couldn’t tell where the sidewalk ended and the snow began. It was difficult to walk to class from Tri Towers.”

Mansfield said that the university typically prefers to stay open when the weather allows, giving students the opportunity to attend classes if they can safely get to campus. Some students even feel class cancellations are unfair, preferring the option of attending the classes they pay for.  

“We want to hold classes if we can,” Mansfield said. “We want to provide education every day that we can.”

Mansfield said that even though Tuesday’s classes are cancelled, students can expect access to services, such as the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and the Deweese Health Center.

“Services for students are still open,” Mansfield said. “The dining facilities are still open. The residence halls are still open. There may be limited access to some of the academic buildings, based on what people are working on and what they can get access to.”

University employees considered essential to day-to-day operations report to work even when classes are cancelled. Essential employees include those working for campus environment and operations, Kent State police services, dining services, residence services and recreational services.

Contact Katherine Schaeffer at [email protected].