The University closed for all of Wednesday, Feb. 25 and until 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26 due to “anticipated severe weather conditions,” according to all-Emory emails from Associate Vice President of Communications and Executive Director of Media Relations Nancy Seideman.

Emory was one of six universities that closed in the Atlanta area on Wednesday, and the City of Atlanta also shut down, according to an online Weather Channel report. According to an article in Decaturish, the City Schools of Decatur, Fulton and DeKalb Counties and the Atlanta Public Schools also closed on Wednesday. On Thursday, City Schools of Decatur, DeKalb and Fulton counties were also closed, according to another Decaturish article.

According to Seideman’s email, the announcement of the University closure on Wednesday applied only to the University. Seideman noted that Emory Healthcare (EHC) employees should refer to the EHC intranet and emails from EHC for information regarding operation. On Wednesday morning, EHC tweeted that all EHC hospitals would be running as per usual.

In a Facebook and Twitter post on Wednesday, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair announced that although the University was closed, Campus Life would be working to take care of students.

The Dobbs Market in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) was open on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Clairmont Campus Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC) operated under normal hours, but the SAAC dining area closed early at 7 p.m. Nair also announced that the SAAC would be operating under normal hours on Thursday and that SAAC dining would serve lunch and dinner on Thursday as well.

According to the Emory Transportation and Parking Services’ (TPS) winter weather information webpage, TPS provided limited shuttle service on Wednesday and planned to serve riders, weather permitting. On Thursday shuttles returned to their regular schedules. TPS tweeted that, weather permitting, C-route shuttles would run from Woodruff Circle to Clairmont Campus until midnight on Wednesday.

Events on campus, such as the Campus Movie Fest Finale and an Economics Department-sponsored lecture, were cancelled due to the inclement weather and the University’s closing. Campus Movie Fest announced that its finale event would be rescheduled to Tuesday, March 3.

The Sex Week event, “What is (Safer) Sex: A Discussion on the Social Construction of Sex,” sponsored by Emory Pride and Sexual Health Advocacy Group (SHAG), will be postponed until Monday, March 2, according to the event’s Facebook page.

Renowned Harvard University economist Gregory Mankiw’s lecture on Wednesday afternoon was also cancelled. The Economics department, which organized the lecture, has not yet set a rescheduling date, according to Stephanie Gray, the department’s graduate program coordinator.

College freshman Robby Gershowitz wrote in an email to the Wheel that he felt that the University’s closure on Wednesday was a mistake, citing that the forecast “clearly showed it was mostly rain [on Wednesday] with a slight chance of snow, which was not likely to occur due to the warm temperatures.”

Gershowitz added that since the library and gym were closed, and the DUC had limited hours, he was “basically stuck in [his] dorm for the day.”

“It was basically a wasted day with people sleeping in, hanging around the dorm and playing online,” he wrote. “As a result of the snow day, I also lost out on valuable time to review material in class before my exams. Overall, I would have preferred a regular school day.”

College junior Donna Mitchell wrote in an email to the Wheel that although she understands why the University made the decision to cancel school, she thinks “the University should make the decision the morning of so that they can actually assess the situation and see if it is necessary.”

“With that being said, it was nice not having to stress for a day and having the extra hours to do what I wanted,” Mitchell wrote. “I only wish I was more productive because it was a great opportunity to get a lot done. Thanks Nancy!”

How Does School Get Cancelled?

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Ever wonder how the University decides to close because of the weather? Chief of Staff and director of Customer Relations and Support for Campus Services Karen Salisbury delineates the process.

According to Salisbury, the decision makers are a group of executive and senior leadership members who meet and consider the options of “delayed opening, early release or closing the University.”

Salisbury added that the meeting to discuss the decision is typically arranged by Senior Administrator for the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) Sam Shartar, and includes Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Claire Sterk, Executive Vice President of Business Michael J. Mandl, Executive Vice President of Emory Healthcare Wright Caughman, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair, Vice President of Campus Services Matthew Early and, occasionally, others.

“Many factors are considered in making the decision, including multiple weather forecast sources, current and expected weather and road conditions based on those forecasts, weather and road conditions which could impact the safety of faculty, staff, students, health care employees, etc. who are commuting from outside the greater Atlanta area,” Salisbury wrote in an email to the Wheel.

She added that other factors considered are MARTA operations, the ability to operate Emory shuttle services and the impact closing might have on Emory’s ability to provide health care and conduct research.

Although the University considers other county, school, university and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decisions on delayed openings and closures, Emory’s decision is not dependent upon the decisions of surrounding institutions, Salisbury wrote.
Salisbury confirmed that no facilities were severely affected by the weather this past Wednesday, except “for a few small areas on the bridges and entrances to health care facilities where Campus Services applied ‘de-icer’ as a precautionary measure.”

According to Salisbury, in general, preparations for cold weather conditions start in early November by ensuring Emory’s roads and grounds, zone maintenance and parking and transportation services have adequate supplies of “de-icer” and equipment to dispense it.
“As forecast of extreme cold temperatures are known, dry fire suppression systems are relieved of any build-up on condensate to prevent freezing,” Salisbury wrote. “Back-up generators are checked to ensure they are topped off with fuel. Flood restoration equipment and supplies are prepared and staged in the event of flooding.”

When cold weather conditions become more immediate, the University implements “round the clock” attention to pipes and systems and coordinates logistics with food services and housing, and for food and shelter of employees that stay on campus during extreme weather.

“For this most recent inclement weather event, approx[imately] 80 Campus Services employees remained on campus during the closure and through the delayed opening providing round the clock care for the University,” Salisbury wrote.

Overall, Salisbury wrote that she felt it was in “the best interest” of the University to close on Wednesday due to the multiple weather forecasts Emory officials had to consider.
“We all must keep in mind the thousands of faculty, staff and students who commute great distances to support the Emory mission and take considerations for their safety in getting to and from the campus,” Salisbury wrote.


— By Annie McGrew, Asst. News Editor

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