On Jan. 28, the state of Georgia was hit with a devastating now storm that nearly brought everything to a halt. The University of West Georgia was also deeply affected by the storm as students learned that the school was shutting down midway through the day.
On the night before the big storm, Jan. 27, schools and universities across the state were closing for classes the next day. Students at UWG anxiously waited to hear if classes were going to be cancelled but did not receive word until the next morning that the campus would be open.
Wolf Alert – UWG’s Emergency Alert System – sent out updates to students through email and/or text messages at 10:28 AM notifying the students and faculty that UWG would close at 12:30 PM.
The snow came much quicker than expected and was also much more dangerous, within an hour the roads were very icy and the traffic on campus was at a dead halt. Another Wolf Alert came out just over an hour later – at 11:43 AM – that said campus was now closed since the road conditions were “deteriorating quicker than expected.”
The whole process was confusing for students and made conditions very dangerous and frustrating for everyone who was trying to leave campus at one time.
“We’re out here trying to make decisions,” said Chief of Police, Thomas Mackel. “If you’re responsible for making decisions then you’ll make good ones and you’ll make bad ones and you’ll try to learn from things that maybe didn’t go as well as you wanted them to.”
There has been a lot of confusion from students about the process for determining whether or not classes are in session. The typical process is that University Police are consulted about the current weather conditions and what is to be expected. From there, University Police brings the case to the president of the university, Dr. Kyle Marrero, who makes the ultimate decision.
“The president is the only one who can close the school; we can’t do that,” said Mackel.
Marrero addressed the issue in an email sent to all students and staff of UWG.
“As president of the university, you have my word that we will work to continually improve our ability to anticipate and respond to weather events,” said Marrero.
Students have been outraged with the decision UWG made and have been arguing that school should have never been in session on Jan. 28. University Police have caught some flak from students who believe their safety wasn’t the primary concern.
“It’s really easy for people to say ‘you don’t care about the safety of the students.’ Come on, let’s be real. Why are we all in higher education? It’s for the students,” said Mackel. “It’s always easy to take shots when you’re not the one having to make the decision.”
University Police handles these types of situations in a case-by-case scenario. This time around they were told that the city of Carrollton was only supposed to get small amounts of snow that would not be dangerous. Obviously, that was not the case as school was also cancelled for Jan. 29-30.
“We’ve got two issues here: the safety of the students, but also can they get to class,” said Mackel. “Back in 2011 we lost a full week of class and that was not good for the students. You’re paying for classes and we should provide that to you.”
In January of 2011, UWG was cancelled for a week of school due to a snow and ice storm that completely froze over the campus.