Watching people respond to the unexpected closure of campus has been truly illuminating. The huge majority of people have returned to work with a helpful attitude and ready to work with students to try and mitigate the disruption. Unfortunately, there are always people who always choose to be the worst in these kinds of situations, so here are some stories about them! Warning: This is long and full of petty ranting.
On the Monday that was Veteran’s Day (11/12), we made the call to close campus for Tuesday based on the terrible air quality from the smoke in the region. We sent out emails, posted on social media, and even used our emergency notification system that calls multiple numbers, sends an email, and even delivers a text. ALL THE MESSAGES. As soon as that message went out, I was flooded with emails. After one hour I had over 500 of them.
This is not an exaggeration – almost 400 of those emails said something along the lines of “I just got several notices that campus is closed tomorrow. Is campus closed tomorrow?” Nope! We just sent over 150,000 messages as a big ol’ joke!
We set up an FAQ page to answer the questions we were getting, but of course, no one wants to be bothered to read that. Despite that excellent resource (if I do say so myself), I received hundreds of emails over the closure that were like this:
Student: Is Tahoe Hall closed?
Me: Yes, the entire campus is closed.
Student: Okay, but what about Alpine Hall?
Me: Closed. No buildings are open
Student: Well I have class.
Me: All classes are cancelled.
Student: But if I don’t go I will be counted absent.
Me: You cannot be absent from a cancelled class.
I try to remind myself that I was (still am?) a self-centered knucklehead when I was in college, and I do try to give students a lot of grace when they are having melodramatic moments. Despite this, I cannot believe the number of students who started demanding a full week before Thanksgiving that we close through the holiday because it was more convenient for them.
Cancelling one class can be hugely disruptive, but cancelling 8 days of instruction because it is convenient is bananas.
While some students were demanding additional closures, we had students who were PISSED that we were closed and had ZERO compassion for anyone who would have to be out in the toxic air. I would like to remind you that the air was polluted from a horrific wildfire that leveled a town before sharing the below statements from a student. A lot of people on our campus were personally affected by the actual fire in addition to the smoke issue.
“I am disappointed that we are governed by fear and denied the opportunity to learn to endure and overcome much as past generations have done in times of hardship. Don’t be governed by the pleading of the weak or the fear of public perception for acting boldly. We cannot wither or hide from adversity. We must rise above and dare to overcome this small hardship.”
Yeah, so… Apparently, not being able to breathe is a “small hardship” that you can simply overcome if you are not weak. Just rise above lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases and you will be FINE. Screw all those people who cannot actually be in polluted air because it makes them ill or requires hospitalization because we are acting boldly! And we should totally go back to enduring things like lead paint, polluted water, acid rain, and arsenic-laced fabrics because other generations did it! Just toughen up, y’all. Your parents losing everything they owned and their entire community being destroyed is just a wee bit of adversity! Just get over it!
We have had a lot of students who want a refund for missed classes (no), yet are also asking that we be closed during Thanksgiving because it is unfair and they have things to do. What things? You are supposed to be in class. You already had a conflict with said “things.” So you are outraged that we canceled classes and want a refund, but you also want us to cancel classes.
I have had lots of moms contact me who were upset that class was cancelled earlier in the week, but who later called back angry that we were not going to cancel the week of Thanksgiving because their “kid could be doing other things.” The thing your kid should be doing is going to class. We had to make the decision to close on a daily basis as we did not get the next day’s air quality forecast until the afternoon. I get that it is inconvenient, but as anyone in education knows, cancelling classes is is the last thing you ever want to do. That instruction time is forever lost and faculty have to make difficult decisions about cutting or rushing through the curriculum. Ultimately, we did have to close through Thanksgiving because the air quality did not improve, but we did not know that until the Sunday before.
I have also receive dozens of emails from students telling me that we should have made coming to class optional because they are adults and can decide for themselves what is and is not safe. Fine. Come to campus. You professor will not be there because she is currently in the hospital after an asthma attack so bad she passed out, but sure, let’s wheel her in there because you’re an adult and the only person who matters. Forget all the other people who have to work outside (parking, police, maintenance crew, mail carriers, and custodial staff) when campus is open. Who cares about their health? Not you!
Other students have demanded that their faculty just “pick up teaching online” as if it is super simple to transition a lecture to online delivery in a day. Okay. I mentioned to several students that this is actually an equity issue because a large portion of our students do not have computers and/or internet in their homes. They check out laptops from our library (which was closed) and rely on the campus Wi-Fi. Since all of the buildings were closed and locked, then they would have had to sit outside IN THE SMOKE to use the internet. Of course, they could go to a public library if they have transportation, but we are closing campus to prevent people from having to travel, so asking them to go somewhere else to take care of coursework defeats the point.
Guess how much those students cared? NOT A BIT. The number of times that I have written or said, “Please remember that your experiences are not the only experiences, and that you are not the only person who exists.” CANNOT BE COUNTED.
I would like to say that the huge majority of the faculty I have spoken to have been extremely understanding and flexible with their students which has been incredibly wonderful. Unfortunately, several took the time to email me that they thought the closure was “unnecessary” or an “overly dramatic reaction” because they had NO PROBLEMS during the smoke. Great. Good for you! I’m happy you felt fine because of lot of us felt awful.
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