Nick Riggi received a National Weather Service alert on Monday telling him about the wind-chill advisory for Wednesday.
With wind chill in Columbus reaching 30 degrees below zero on Wednesday, Riggi, a fourth-year in biology, thought about his quiz that he had in the morning. About the long walk he would have to make in the cold to reach the classroom, and the risk of exposure to the cold. So he started a petition, asking Ohio State to cancel classes.
Fewer than 24 hours later, Riggi’s petition had exceeded 24,000 signatures.
“It hit 200 and I was ecstatic. And then after an hour, my roommate yelled at me and said, ‘Hey, it’s over 1,000,’ and I lost my mind,” Riggi said. “I never in my wildest dreams would have expected to get to where it is right now.”
Facing the prospect of wind chills of minus 19 at the warmest and minus 29 at the coldest in Columbus, according to the National Weather Service, Ohio State has yet to make any official announcement regarding the status of classes on Wednesday for the main campus.
It had already announced the cancellation of classes for both the Mansfield and Lima regional campuses.
Riggi said while the ultimate goal of his petition was to at least cancel classes, all he wanted was Ohio State to say it was sitting down and looking at the situation, to make an informed decision about whether to ask students to come to campus on Wednesday.
“The article said closings are rare, and that’s it,” Riggi said. “All I wanted out of this was the administration to at least rethink and just say something like, ‘Hey, just so anyone is aware. We are sitting down, looking at the situation.’”
The release, sent out by Ohio State Monday afternoon, said the university will consult with medical experts, student health services and the Department of Public Safety to make an informed decision about whether to keep classes open. It said it is considering both the safety of students and the “obligation to provide the full measure of instruction to tuition-paying students.”
Ohio State had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government President Shamina Merchant said on Twitter Tuesday morning that “Safety is the #1 priority,” and that she and Vice President Shawn Semmler “are working closely with OSU admin concerning the weather this week & student safety.”
Riggi believes that if the university does not cancel classes, students should not leave their homes unless it is absolutely necessary. He said unless they have a class that has a midterm or a quiz, it is not worth leaving the house and risking exposure out in the cold.
And if students decide to venture out, he warned it is important to bundle up. The National Weather Service advised that at minus 20 degrees, frostbite could occur in 15 minutes, meteorologist John Franks said.
“I would follow the National Weather Service’s advice and they say wear three layers of clothing like one insulating, two pairs of pants, thick socks,” Riggi said. “I would really bundle up. Wear a facemask. No exposed skin because your skin will freeze within minutes.”