‘Please close, it’s freezing’: Ohio State receives emails about class cancellations and lack thereof
Ohio State Interim President Joseph Alutto received a flurry of emails this semester related to the weather and university decisions of whether to cancel classes.
“Dear President Alutto, it is very cold outside. That is all,” read one email sent to Alutto from someone whose name was redacted.
“Please take a stroll from South Campus to North Campus to see what you are making us walk through on this awful day,” one read.
“According to the Weather Channel, it is -14 degrees outside with wind chill. Has anyone from your office taken a walk outside? Maybe from High Street to Neil Avenue, just as a test?” asked another, who titled the email “The weather outside is frightful.”
OSU called off classes Jan. 6, 7 and 28 because of extreme weather conditions. Temperatures fell to roughly minus 7 Jan. 6 and 7 and to about minus 11 degrees Jan. 28, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration archives.
Students, faculty, staff and parents were among those at OSU’s Columbus campus who sent emails about the weather to Alutto and OSU Emergency Management between Jan. 5 and Feb. 12. The messages ranged from calling for classes to be canceled, to pointing out areas that weren’t cleared, to thanking the ground crews for their work, according to emails provided to The Lantern Thursday to fill a records request filed Feb. 12.
OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email the names of enrolled students and information pertaining to “recreational activities of a person under the age of 18” were redacted from the records.
The majority of those who sent emails weren’t satisfied with how OSU dealt with the weather conditions on various days — of about a dozen emails sent to Alutto, three did not appear to call for campus to close; about seven of roughly 90 sent to Emergency Management weren’t outright complaining about the conditions around campus.
Administration and Planning spokeswoman Lindsay Komlanc said in January OSU uses “flexible” guidelines when deciding whether to close.
“There is no set policy on what it takes to close the university. This allows for flexibility in decision making. Variables that are considered include whether roads, parking lots and sidewalks are clear, whether buildings are and can be kept warm and whether the weather is dangerous,” Komlanc said.
She said according to OSU policy, the president or “authorized designee” is expected to make the decision to cancel classes by 5 a.m. for day classes.
Alutto said he typically tests the weather when making his part of the decision whether to close campus.
“I’m usually in the office about 6 or 6:30 in the morning and I try and walk around to see what the campus is like when nobody’s around,” he said in an interview with The Lantern Feb. 11. “(The decisions of whether to close campus are) not easy decisions because we really do consult with our medical personnel, who talk to us about what the dangers are … There’s ultimately a team with the president and the senior vice presidents, and everybody worries about the consequences, and everybody worries over and over again.
“What I told them over and over again is that you have to make the best decision that you can because you’ll get blamed either way.”
At times this semester when the weather was arguably extreme but classes continued as usual, Emergency Management sent emails to the OSU community listing tips for staying safe and asking professors to be lenient on attendance. Some people, though, weren’t satisfied with those messages and chose to respond to them.
“Buses are always packed, but who wants to stand and wait on one in the negative 15 degree weather,” an email sent Jan. 26 and signed by a “third-year OSU student” read. “Parents have been calling with concerns to me personally and all of my roommates. They all suggest not going to class, but they do not know how important it is to attend lecture if lectures are held.”
“This is crap,” said “an angry student” who sent an email Feb. 5. “I can’t just stay home, I have two quizzes, and since you decided the campus should stay open, I now have to risk my life driving to class on bad roads.”
On Feb. 5, the minimum temperature was 22 degrees and 3.5 inches of snow fell, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration archives. The day before, the temperature was as low as 19 degrees and 7.1 inches of snow fell.
By a similar vein, there were several complaints sent in by commuters, who said while campus roads and sidewalks were cleared, the roads to campus were not.
“I live in the suburbs and I couldn’t get my car out of my neighborhood. This is ridiculous, not everyone has money to live on campus,” an email sent Feb. 5 read.
“(My boyfriend and I) live 30 minutes away from campus,” an email sent to Alutto Feb. 5 said. “If we were to miss a test or an important lecture due to not being able to commute to campus, we are many times just out of luck, no matter how many emails the university sends out asking professors to be flexible.”
Some, too, demanded compensation for their slips and falls.
“I fell yesterday on campus on the icy sidewalk,” an email to Emergency Management sent Feb. 6 read. “Please send a check for 10 million U.S. dollars (only several times the annual salary of (OSU football coach) Urban Meyer) to me.”
And some kept their pleas for the university to cancel classes concise.
“Please close, it’s freezing,” the entirety of an email sent Jan. 27 read.
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