As winter weather continues, temperatures are beginning to drop and roads are getting slick from ice, causing Ohio State students — and perhaps staff and faculty — to hope for a snow day. But what does it actually take for the university to cancel classes for a day?
In short, it’s complicated.
The decision for the university to have a snow day is made using input from multiple groups on campus, including Ohio State’s Facilities Operations and Development, Transportation and Traffic Management, the university’s Department of Public Safety, the Office of Student Life, CampusParc and others, said Bob Armstrong, the director of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention, in an email.
“These groups provide information and recommendations through Public Safety to university leadership before the president and provost make a final decision,” Armstrong said, adding the decision to cancel all classes for a day due to severe weather is made using guidelines that are by design very flexible.
“There is no absolute temperature, snowfall amount or other specific hazard that triggers a closure. Each situation is considered holistically — analyzing the entire picture rather than each individual component. ” he said.
This means snow, ice and temperature are not all that are taken into consideration for a snow day.
Dan Hedman, spokesman for the Office of Administration and Planning, said other factors that affect the decision to have a snow day include, but are not limited to, timing, wind levels and day of the week.
Hedman said in the last 40 years, Ohio State has closed 12 times.
The last happened in 2014; the university closed Jan. 6 and 7 due to temperatures of minus 7 and lower, with a windchill of minus 35.
“At the time, we estimated that it cost nearly $300,000 in additional costs or lost revenue [to cancel all classes for those two days],” said Benjamin Johnson, an Ohio State spokesperson.
Ohio State takes its duty to provide the full measure of instruction to tuition-paying students very seriously, and for that reason, the university does not often close because of inclement weather, said Armstrong.
Hedman said when the university is open during inclement winter weather, Facilities Operations and Development teams are dispatched to treat campus roadways and sidewalks with salt. He said they remain on campus throughout the day and night, treating and plowing as needed.
“The university is home to more than 130 miles of campus sidewalk and 40 miles of campus roads that take nearly six hours to clear one time,” Hedman said. “While [those walking on campus] may still see snow in the areas, our facilities crew will do its best to keep pathways clear.”
An unsafe condition caused by snow or ice can be reported to Service2Facilities at 614-292-4357 or firstname.lastname@example.org.