Snow Rant

March 21, 2006 at 7:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is stupid.

UNL is stupid from my perspective as a Nebraska taxpayer. First UNL was closed yesterday. I don’t think a closing was necessary, but I can sortakinda understand why the decision was made. A bunch of students returning from spring break were stuck in various parts of the state due to the snowstorm, and UNL didn’t want them rushing back in the middle of a storm. Never mind that most students who were going to make it to Lincoln had arrived well prior to the University’s absurdly late 10:30 PM closing announcement. (The announcement was made, incidentally, after UNL had already said that it would not make such an announcement until the following morning.) Those who were going to make it were here; those who could not make it had already given up.

Whatever. Cancel classes. That’s fine. But why close the entire University? Lincoln’s roads were easily passable in the morning (and, in retrospect, throughout the day), and UNL does a pretty decent job of keeping its sidewalks and parking lots clear. Other than the inconvenience of having to walk from their cars to their buildings, there wasn’t much of a reason why UNL’s employees couldn’t be at work. Would they have complained? Of course they would have; in my experience, UNL’s employees complain about anything and everything. It’s just the way things work. Would some of them have stayed home? Sure, but what’s the harm in that? If 10% of employees want to stay home and build a snow man with their kids, who am I to disagree?

But forget all that. I disagree with the decision to close UNL yesterday, but it wasn’t an awful decision. Let’s move on to today. Today UNL really showed off its stupidity.

Around 9:00 PM last night UNL announced that it would be closed until 1:00 PM today. Classes would resume at 1:00 PM, and all non-critical staff were not to report until 1:00 PM. Then it got worse. At 10:00 AM today UNL announced that it would be closed for the entire day! That, my friends, is BS-flavored baloney.

Let’s begin with the students. Clearly UNL is failing its students. If UNL were actually teaching its students anything or preparing them to go out into the world, UNL would not have cancelled classes. College students are adults, and they ought to be treated as adults. Adults have the capability to make rational decisions about their lives. In the case of the students stuck around the state, one of those decisions is whether or not they should risk their lives just to be on time for class. The answer, of course, is no. Instead of letting 10% of its students exercise their judgement, UNL gave them and the other 90% of its students who were already in town two days off.

But that’s not what makes me angriest. I’m really ticked off about UNL unnecessarily wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on salaries, utilities, and other costs by giving its non-critical employees two paid days off of work. That made sense back in October 1997 when the majority of trees on campus were partially or completely broken, and many UNL employees had no power in their homes. It makes no sense today when the streets are passable (if not clean), campus sidewalks are clean, and campus parking lots are usable. The situation is especially intolerable when one considers that UNL has a policy (PDF) that allows for classes to be cancelled but for other business to continue as usual:

2. “All classes (night classes) nonathletic events and clinics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are canceled; however,
all other business will be conducted as usual. Therefore, all personnel should report for work.”

This situation may occur, for example, if a storm before the start of the second semester prevents most students from
returning in time but local personnel are still expected to come to work. In this situation there will be no administrative
leave granted. Those not reporting for work may use vacation leave or leave without pay if there is no vacation leave
accumulated. No additional time is granted for employees who come to work. In other words, it will be a normal workday
for all employees.

Why was this policy not enacted yesterday or today? Why are the state’s taxpayers paying for UNL’s employees to sit on the couch watching Leave it to Beaver reruns and eating chocolate bon-bons?

Here is what should have happened. As soon as it was obvious that the storm would affect Lincoln and greater Nebraska, the University should have issued a statement. Noon on Sunday would have been a good time. That statement should have said something to the effect of:

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln currently plans to operate as usual on Monday, March 20. Students returning from spring break are encouraged to make intelligent decisions as they travel back to Lincoln. UNL’s instructors are being told to take the weather into account when classes resume on Monday. Students should work with their instructors to take care of any missed assignments or deadlines that occur as a result of a student being unable to travel due to the weather. Problems that cannot be fixed by a student working with his or her instructors should be taken to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

As soon as the decision was made to cancel classes, the statement would have been updated. UNL faculty and staff should have been instructed to report in accordance with alternative 2 in UNL’s inclement weather policy (cited above). Classes should have been held as usual on Tuesday, with a similar statement to the one above being issued to encourage stranded students to not take any risks while traveling back to Lincoln.

Nebraskans should be outraged that their tax dollars were wasted these past two days. The decision to cancel classes is arguably justifiable. But giving UNL’s employees two days off of work? I can’t think of any justification for that. I demand an explanation.

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The Comments

Mr. T March 21, 2006 at 10:32pm

I agree and disagree. I believe closing down the University made sense yesterday (Monday). At around noon, I HAD to go out to the grocery store because I didn

Karin March 22, 2006 at 3:41am

When I checked today and saw that school was still going to be closed after 1, I wondered why. The roads were well on their way to being cleared.

And, like you said, we can make our own decisions about whether or not to show up to class. On top of that, the library was closed as well, so I could not even go and do research.

Thank god for the internet and remote access to research databases.

D.M.B. March 22, 2006 at 4:23am

but do you think Mr. Wilson that the U would release such a statement?  or people would get the message?  All they hear is class is canceled.  And plus if you think about it, classes at UNL run on either a Monday-wednesday-friday or a tuesday-thursday schedule.  canceling classes Tuesday made it so classes on either day missed the same amount of time.

And besides, I know that some profs wouldn’t care about the weather when it comes to missing their class and who wants to go through a long drawn out process with student affairs.  In the end, it probably wasn’t the best decision but I can understand it.

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