Jerry Pogatshnik, interim provost and dean of the Graduate School, sent an email to faculty and staff Thursday addressing student complaints for not canceling classes due to inclement weather. In the email, Pogatshnik asked faculty and staff to remember their “obligations” to students.
“The decision to cancel classes is an academic decision that we all take seriously, fully understanding the hardships it may cause in individual cases,” Pogatshnik said in the email. “Canceling class has academic repercussions and we have obligations to our students to hold classes except for under extreme conditions. I have faith in the faculty that they are ready to work with students who find themselves in difficult situations due to weather, be it childcare, dangerous travel, or other conditions.”
EKU, along with the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University and several other state institutions cancelled classes Wednesday over similar weather concerns, but not Thursday. Wind chill was slightly less severe Thursday; 0 degrees at 10:54 a.m. compared to -11 degrees at 10:54 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Madison County and Fayette County Public Schools canceled for the second day in a row.
Wednesday students took to Twitter calling for President Michael Benson to cancel Thursday classes, citing safety concerns over the single-digit temperatures and wind chill.
“Please reconsider,” user @stafford_olivia tweeted at the president. “The temperatures are still going to be dangerously low tomorrow and it will still be unsafe for students and staff who have to walk across campus. Personally I have about 45 minute drive to campus and a 10-15 minute walk from my car to my a.m. class.”
Please reconsider. The temperatures are still going to be dangerously low tomorrow and it will still be unsafe for students and staff who have to walk across campus. Personally I have about 45 minute drive to campus and a 10-15 minute walk from my car to my am class.— Olivia Stafford (@stafford_olivia) January 31, 2019
Others took to making memes:
One petition to cancel Thursday classes spread through social media and has gained more than 2,300 supporters as of 10 p.m. Thursday. Libertie Murry, 19, is a freshman pre-nursing major who started the petition Wednesday afternoon.
“The temperatures are still supposed to be below freezing (Thursday) and isn't safe for commuters who have to walk or drive to campus or even for campus students to have to walk between classes or wait for the transit,” Murry wrote on the petition site.
Murry, who does not drive and lives half a mile off-campus, did not feel safe making her 20-to-30-minute walk to campus in the weather. She said she knew five or so other students who skipped for similar reasons. Her petition site is littered with comments from students and family members of students expressing the same concerns.
“A lot of people are asking for classes to be canceled because they don’t feel safe,” Murry said in an interview with the Progress. “The university asks us ‘How can we make the college better for incoming students?’ Why not listen to what we’re recommending? I mean it’s not like we’re asking them to cancel every day of the year or the semester or anything. It’s cold, and we could get frostbite.”
Pogatshnik said in the email that while conditions were cold on Thursday, they were “no more so than many other days when we’ve held classes with temperatures in the single digits.”
“I fully supported the decision to hold classes today and was deeply dismayed by the petitions, complaints on social media, etc., that have questioned that decision,” Pogatshnik said.
Gov. Matt Bevin faced backlash on social media and a scolding by famed weather forecaster Al Roker on MSNBC’s morning weather report after making comments that the nation was “getting soft” by canceling school due to low temperatures.