The Student News Site of University of Nebraska at Kearney

The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

    Administration’s snow day stress

    Photo of a sidewalk on campus that is snowy

    Deciding to close campus is more complicated than students think


    A topic that has been discussed continually this year on and around the UNK campus is one that university administrators take very seriously—cancelling classes because of the weather.

    “Our number one priority is to be open,” said Jon Watts, UNK’s Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance.  “The best place for our students to be is in their classes or participating in activities, so we really start by doing everything we can to keep campus open.”

    When it comes to making a call or whether to close campus or not, the decision is not a simple one, and is not made by just one person.

    “We consult with our facilities team, and our UNK police department and our local emergency management,” Watts said. “Monday through Sunday, it doesn’t matter. There’s not a day we don’t look at the weather. There’s no cut and dry answer, but the process starts early and often.”

    With advice from personnel, including the Vice Chancellor for Business & Finance, the decision to close the university because of severe weather is made by the Chancellor.

    We get complaints, but people should really understand that our number on priority is to be open, and make our decisions with that in mind.

    -Jon Watts

    “At the end of the day it comes down to a recommendation to Chancellor Kristensen,” Watts said. “He’s the leader of our campus. He makes the decision on numerous factors from activities that we have, to out of town guests that might be visiting our campus and students traveling in on the highways. We know we have a lot of commuter students and faculty traveling from other communities, so all of those are factors. It’s Nebraska and it’s winter.”

    This has been a particularly busy winter for the UNK grounds crew who has been working hard to help keep campus open. 

    “We start by clearing the ADA accessible paths,” Watts said.

    To view a map of these sidewalks, visit and select the accessible walking path icon and numerous blue paths will be displayed. Snow removal is prioritized in the following order: accessible pedestrian areas, remaining pedestrian areas, parking areas, and campus roads.

    “Our goal is to always make a decision by 6:00 a.m., if not the night before,” Watts said. “A couple of the ice events (this winter) were challenging because by 6:00 a.m. the ice wasn’t a problem, but between 6:30 and 7:30 it became a problem, and by then it’s too late.”

    “These last couple storms our campus has used about four tons of salt each time, so one of the challenges is that if there’s a lot of snow forecasted, we will hold off salting parking lots, because we can only have so much salt on hand, and if there’s the potential to not have enough salt for the couple hundred acres of sidewalks.”

    Every reasonable effort is made to clear multiple entry/exit points for each of UNK’s residence halls. UNK custodian staff is responsible for clearing snow within 15 feet of the buildings, giving the grounds crew the ability to move through faster. During last year’s significant budget cuts, two ground positions were eliminated, leaving the small team short two bodies this winter.

    “It’s a small team but it’s all a team effort,” Watts said. “We also really try to invest in good equipment and that makes a huge difference. We get complaints, but people should really understand that our number one priority is to be open, and we make our decisions with that in mind.”

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Antelope

    Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Nebraska at Kearney . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Antelope

    Comments (0)

    All The Antelope Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *