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The Antelope

The Antelope

Cold feet on closures puts students in cold

UNK Louie Loper

Despite Nebraska’s relative familiarity with sub-zero temperatures, the double-digit negatives and near 40-below wind chills we saw on campus this week seem to have taken the administration off guard. Even as UNL canceled class for Monday and Tuesday early on Sunday, UNK’s cold feet kept students in a state of anxiety as they were forced to plan for travelling to in-person classes. 

Some students simply took the hit to their attendance grade. Others layered up in whatever clothes they had on hand. Still others looked to Zoom as a solution, exposing a serious lack of consistency in remote offerings across academic departments. 

When campus leadership finally made a move, it once again looked to an intermediary, low-impact option in the interest of “ensur[ing] a continuation of services and educational support,” according to a campus-wide email from vice chancellor Jon Watts. Some parking limitations were temporarily lifted, including permit requirements for UNK lots. Unfortunately, these provisions were announced at 2 p.m. after much of the day had already passed, with only hours left until several lot restrictions soften under normal operation. 

Pairing this lackluster effort with an initial stance indicating the university would remain open on Tuesday, Watts’s first email was met with near-universal confusion and disappointment. The decision to remain open Tuesday was reneged by the end of the evening, accompanied by an apology for “delayed action,” in another email from Watts. 

When the cancellations for Tuesday finally arrived, many students celebrated before finding themselves wondering why the campus hadn’t already been closed Monday, when winds were more severe, temperatures were several degrees lower and the risk of frostbite on some of the campus’s longest building-to-building treks was greater. 

According to AccuWeather, Monday reached a low of 26 below zero and peaked at 9 below zero. For Tuesday, the temperature reached a low of 6 below zero and a high of zero degrees. Whatever motivated Tuesday’s closures, Monday’s temperatures were substantially more dangerous — posing a risk of frostbite within 10 minutes of exposure. 

Keeping class in session Monday was reckless at worst and misguided at best.

In a final email Tuesday morning, Watts warned of potential rolling blackouts that could impact both campus and the greater Kearney area. As of Tuesday afternoon, no planned blackouts have been enacted. 

Tuesday’s closure provided little in the way of fixing any problem. Despite clear reference to cancellation of both on-site and remote learning, some professors forged ahead with Zoom classes to stay on track with the condensed academic calendar that resulted from the optional J-term at the expense of spring break. Frankly, the administration should strongly encourage professors to waive attendance penalties for both these classes and any classes held in person on Monday that students may not have attended — no questions asked.

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