Ice Age

By Bethany Gallimore
On March 10, 2014

Students, faculty and staff weren’t sure whether to rejoice for the extra four days off from school last week.

The city of Jonesboro was hit with about 3.5 inches of sleet, according to the blog for Ryan Vaughan, chief meteorologist at KAIT, Region 8 News.

While many students were able to catch up on homework or go sledding during the break, some wonder if the days off will affect the current academic calendar.

“This isn’t like high school where snow days affect the school year,” said Bill Smith, executive director of marketing and communication in a phone interview on Friday. “That doesn’t apply here.”

Smith explained a university, unlike high school, doesn’t have a set number of days that students have to attend class; the university follows guidelines. Fifteen weeks of instruction, including exams, is what normally is followed.

Smith also emphasized tha “at this time” everything willduring the Friday phone interview because the uncertainty of future weather may end up interfering with the academic calendar.

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lynita Cooksey spoke Friday during the Faculty Senate meeting about the possibility of adjusting the finals week schedule to accommodate the six missed snow days this semester.

“We have never missed this many days of class before,” Cooksey said.

The concern is that classes that only meet one day a week will not have adequate time to cover important material before the end of the term.

Cooksey said making up six days of class is not possible, but her office is considering utilizing the finals week study day as an extra teaching day.

“It would allow at least two days that may be important for classes to tie up,” Cooksey said. “I’m not proposing, I’m just putting it out there. I need a feel for what we need to do.”

Any decision to adjust the finals schedule will need to be made quickly, according to Win Bridges of humanities and social sciences.

“We want to keep the semester on track. We can’t wait three weeks (to make a decision),” Bridges said.

This discussion is also a reflection on the snowstorm and consequential cancellations of last December. Many students with airline tickets were trapped between taking their final exams and maintaining their flight schedule.

“Even though there is plenty of time to change finals, it may not be plenty of time for our students,” said Judy Phriemer of nursing and health professions.

Cooksey assured the senators that using spring break was not an option, and she is open to receiving their feedback on the idea of adjusting finals week.

“If you think it is a concern, we need to make a decision on this early next week,” she said.

Instructors are encouraged to email Cooksey with their suggestions.

The spring schedule has already been moderately revised to accommodate the ice storm. Midterms, which were scheduled to end March 10, are now scheduled to end March 14. Midterm grades will be due March 18.

According to Smith, if something else happens, the university may revisit the possibilities to make up classes.

As of now, Smith said the current snow days would not cut into spring break, which is about two weeks away. As for how students and faculty will rearrange their schedules due to the days off, Smith said it is up to each individual instructor.

“Many professors utilized Blackboard during the break to keep students on schedule,” Smith said. “Others may come back and double up on assignments to get back on schedule.”

Ultimately, it’s up to the discretion of each instructor, but Smith adds university students have more responsibilities when it comes to keeping up with assignments, snow day or not.

Staff of Facilities Management, however, didn’t have a break during the snow days. They worked many hours clearing sidewalks, roadways, parking lots and stairs.

The Convocation Center closed two entrances because of damage and falling ice. The Jonesboro Fire Department provided assistance and removed the ice off the roof.

Smith said usually the announcement of campus being closed is misinterpreted. The University Police Department continued to make the usual rounds, the Acansa Dining Hall worked on a weekend schedule and maintenance took care of heating units and other necessities.

Smith said it wasn’t just personnel and staff working during the snow days, but some even volunteered.

Cooksey said she received student requests from the last snow days in February on how having the Dean B. Ellis Library open would have helped many continue their classwork.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, a crew volunteered to man the library during a limited opening.

Smith said it is another way the university is helping to keep students academically on track during snow days.

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