By Nancy Elias
Rutgers-Newark has had four closings and one delayed opening since the beginning of the spring semester this year. “Snow” has been the key word in the past month on almost all news outlets and in the mouths of students across the state. While the administration at Rutgers University is doing its best to deal with the unexpected amount of snow that New Jersey has been confronted with this semester, most students feel that the university is not responding to these adverse weather conditions properly.
“They let us know that they are closing way too late,” says Salvatore Bonafede, junior and psychology and art double-major at Rutgers-Newark. “If they closed earlier and didn’t wait until 8:30 a.m. or later, when most people have already left their homes, people wouldn’t be driving in this craziness and risking their lives,” Bonafede says.
Peter Englot, senior vice chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark described the procedure the university takes when facing adverse weather conditions.
“When weather reports indicate that a weather emergency is possible, President Barchi’s office organizes a conference call, usually 12-24 hours in advance of the possible event, among the leaders of all of the Rutgers University institutions—Rutgers University – New Brunswick, Rutgers University – Newark, Rutgers University – Camden, and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences—and selected members of their leadership teams. In the case of Rutgers University – Newark, those on recent calls have been Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Provost Todd Clear, and Senior Vice Chancellor Peter Englot. The group discusses the latest forecasts available—customized for Rutgers University use from the National Weather Service—as well as input from Rutgers facilities, public safety, and human resources leaders. If the forecast is uncertain with regard to the likely severity of conditions, follow-up calls closer to the timing of possible weather-related problems may be scheduled. In each case, conditions at each of Rutgers’ locations are considered and it is determined whether or not different responses to the weather might be warranted by different conditions on the ground at the different locations,” said Englot.
While the university watches the weather as best as it can, students still feel that emails sent at 8 a.m. are not sufficient enough warning for both students and professors. A largely commuter campus, driving conditions are an especially important consideration for students arriving on campus and a student or professor with a 10am class has probably left her or his home by the time a cancellation email is sent out.
“We don’t like missing class, but the administration takes too long to let us know what they will decide to do. Other universities, like NJIT, which is across the street from our campus, announce closings before we do while we delay our opening and then eventually close,” says Bonafede.
Moreover, students at Rutgers-Newark juggle between wanting to be safe in adverse weather conditions and wanting to make it to campus in order to not miss crucial learning material. Students pay tuition after all and want to get the most out of their educational experience at Rutgers. Nevertheless, students feel overwhelmingly that safety trumps being in class physically, especially with the technology that is readily available to both students and professors.
“With the technology we have, we can do online classes for days where the weather is too bad to attend class. For one of my macroeconomics classes, my professor used to record his classes and post them if we could not meet. Plus, we have e-mail, blackboard, and can still do a great amount of work without being physically on campus for a day or two,” says John Cardine, accounting major and junior at Rutgers-Newark.
While students lament missing class, they express their opinions that with technology we can learn to the same extent without putting lives in danger.
“We should close entirely when we need to and not just delay campus opening, for both professors and students. I’d rather not risk my life and take advantage of the technology we have to stay on top of our coursework. Sure, being in class is always the best option, and sure we will have a bit of a delay, but we can still learn, and it’s still a better alternative to risk driving in with the weather we have been having,” Bonafede says.