BRRRing on the cold

University keeps school open in freezing temps, angering students


Despite sub-zero temperatures, risk of frostbite and the fact that the University of Michigan canceled classes for the first time on Tuesday since 1978, the university operated as usual.

And many students were not happy about it.

When supply chain management junior Ryan Pun heard the news, he started a petition on the official website of the White House to see how many students would stand up to the administration with him.

Casey Hull / The State News

Before the petition was taken down Tuesday morning “for violating terms of participation,” it had more than 300 signatures.

“I just think it is unethical for MSU not canceling class in such weather,” Pun said. “People really may get injury or get frostbite from it. The reason I started the petition is that I was trying to have America see how ridiculous MSU is.”

He said he might not have been so upset if MSU had a better bus system or more room for parking on campus.

“I just hope MSU will actually start listening to the students and actually care about them,” he said.

MSU’s decision to keep the university open was not an easy one to make, MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said.

“The decision … came about after thoughtful, reasoned consideration of local weather forecast updates from the National Weather Service to MSU Police, confirmation that all streets, sidewalks, bus stops and parking lots on campus were open and all public transit was able to fully operate,” Cassella said in an email.

“The presumption is that we’re going to be open,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said at a reception for student leaders Tuesday evening. “You’re paying a lot of money for that, and we’re going to deliver a product.”

Simon said administrators do not cancel classes unless the weather model used by the university forecasts wind chill temperatures will fall to -30 degrees. In this case, they did not, she said.

The wind chill temperature bottomed out at -27 degrees Tuesday morning just minutes before 8 a.m. classes began, according to National Weather Service data gathered at Lansing’s Capital City Airport.

Many students used social media to encourage students to protest the decision by skipping class and posting pictures of frostbites online.

Communication senior Nate Belyk started a Facebook group that had more than 3,500 members who disagreed with MSU’s decision to operate as usual in the freezing weather.

“As with all sectors of major industry, profits seem to be the driving force behind this university’s administrative decisions,” Belyk said in an email.

Belyk said the reason he was inspired to take action was to make students believe in the power of a collective student voice, and noted the announcement made by MSU wrongly assumed that students walking to class would not have to be outside longer than 10 to 15 minutes.

“The MSU administration clearly has no problem neglecting the well-being and livelihood of its 50,000 students,” he said. “Clearly, it is time for each one of us to start taking a stand, voicing our beliefs and making some changes.”

Some students took matters into their own hands and decided to skip classes anyway. Art education sophomore Constantine Panagos opted not to attend his ceramics class Tuesday.

“I was not about to risk it to go to classes today, and I never skip classes,” Panagos said. “I think the fact they didn’t (cancel classes is) appalling and shows how little they really care about the students’ health here.”

Others were not able to afford that luxury. Communication junior Maryssa Mitchell made two 20-minute walks Tuesday.

“You realize how cold it really is once you go inside and notice that your legs feel like pins and needles as they warm up,” she said. “I was planning on waiting for a bus, but … it requires even more time outside waiting for a bus than to just walk the distance.”

Others had no qualms braving the cold and was glad MSU stayed open.

“People definitely should have bundled up and gone to class,” international relations junior Adam Grajewski said. “We already had two days canceled so far. People complain about the price of tuition nowadays, yet they look for excuses for classes to be canceled.”

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