Despite a sub-zero wind chill factor and up to 12 inches of snow on the forecast, Michigan State didn't suspend classes Monday – much to the frustration of several MSU students.
Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and multiple school systems in the Capital area were closed as the region continued to experience 2019's first major winter storm system.
In Lansing, Mayor Andy Schor declared a state of emergency, limiting non-essential travel and parking on roads. The city of East Lansing also suspended parking on roads from 6 p.m. Jan. 28 to 6 a.m. Jan 29 in order to speed up the snow removal process.
MSU's administration released a letter to students Jan. 27 prior to the storm and additional cold weather forecasted for later this week. It contained tips on how to stay warm, with advice to wear loose, layered clothing and to wear a hat, gloves and boots while traveling. A second letter sent Jan. 28 repeated the safety tips.
On campus, students with long walks to class faced icy and slippery conditions. Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, bus routes on campus still operated, but posted on Twitter to say people in transit could expect delays on their commutes.
The safety of our customers and employees is first and foremost. While all CATA services currently remain open, expect delays due to inclement weather. Snow detours on our 12 fixed routes are likely due to accumulating snow and ice, and impassable roads.
Students took to Twitter to post their thoughts about MSU's decision to hold classes. Others talked about traveling in the hazardous weather.
Finance senior Claire Wohlfeil, who skipped the first of her two Monday classes because of the snow emergency, said the university's decision to not cancel was surprising.
“It definitely was surprising that it seems like every other school in the state has canceled except for Michigan State," Wohlfeil said. "It was kind of concerning that the school would disregard the weather in that way."
Wohlfeil's first class, a kinesiology tennis course, is held in an off-campus facility. She normally drives to it, but she didn't Monday morning due to the road conditions. She said she'd try to bus to her second class on campus.
Wohlfeil said it wouldn't be a "good look" for MSU to stay open all week while other schools continue to close because of dangerous weather conditions.
“I think that if backlash gets big enough, just the fact that other schools in the state are canceled … It wouldn’t be a good look for Michigan State to stay open this whole week when people are having these issues getting to class and shoveling with the cold temperatures," Wohlfeil said.
Journalism senior Alec Reo walked nearly two miles to get to his class held in MSU's Communication Arts and Sciences building.
He said he was one of about six students to show up to the class.
“There were a lot of students who didn’t come," Reo said.
Instead, students absent had to meet up with the class via Zoom – what Reo described as a group FaceTime feature for classrooms to use.
"It just goes to show how most people just didn’t want to go because conditions were so treacherous," Reo said.
Reo said he witnessed several cars fishtailing as he walked from his apartment to campus.He also thinks there's a chance that the university could close Wednesday as a polar vortex will bring negative 30 degree wind chill temperatures to the area.
Crop and soil sciences junior Danielle Frost lives a couple of miles off campus. Her first thought waking up Monday was, "I'm not about to dig my car out of this snow pile."
“I pretty much just woke up and was automatically not about it and not really having it,” Frost said.
Her day consisted of two 50 minute back-to-back classes. She didn't go to either, and she said she also didn't expect the university to cancel classes.
“I’ve been here for three years and we’ve never cancelled classes before for any kind of like cold weather or snow or anything," Frost said. “Part of me thinks that they’re not going to close campus just because they haven’t ever closed for any kind of situations before that were this cold.”
Frost said she expects the university will have issues if they don't cancel classes. She expects more students will complain if they're expected to walk and travel in hazardous conditions.
“Instead of emailing us and being like, ‘Okay, we want you to be safe,’ they were kind of just like, ‘You know what, it’s kind of cold so bundle up a little extra than you would on a regular basis,'" Frost said.
MSU last cancelled classes Jan. 6, 2014, because of heavy snow and extreme wind chill temperatures. In that instance, only staff reported and students were advised to stay home.
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