As we start the march toward the end of the semester, I thought I’d tie up a few loose ends in one message.
This week will apparently bring the first winter weather of the season, and inevitably, this creates a series of questions about when the university is or isn’t closed and how we make such decisions. The decision on whether to keep the university open is made by CSU’s Public Safety Team — you can find more detailed information online, but here’s the general process we follow.
There is input from CSUPD, working jointly with local law enforcement to assess the safety of the roads and ability of commuters and public transit to get to campus. There is input from CSU Facilities on safety conditions involved with moving about campus, including whether our sidewalks are reasonably clear, our parking is open, and our snow-removal crews can keep up with conditions. We take both weather forecasts and wind chills into account. We are in routine and frequent communication with county and city officials and, in general, if they are requesting that people stay off the roads and are closing their own offices, we tend to close as well. The same is not true with respect to the Poudre School District. While we understand the complexities that are introduced for many employees and students with children when the school district closes and we do not, PSD faces a very different analysis as it determines risk to minors. We have to balance the impact of a PSD-CSU mismatch on our parents with the impacts of closing on all of our students and employees. Any time we cancel classes, it has an academic impact that can be particularly disruptive for courses that meet only once or twice a week. For many of our low-income, hourly wage employees, a closure can represent a non-trivial loss of income. For many students and employees who may have commuted some significant distance to arrive at campus, a closure represents a marked inconvenience. Even when we close, we have to ensure that we are able to staff our residence halls, animal-care facilities, and other essential functions that operate 24-7.
In the end, we try to balance all of these factors, but safety is always our overriding concern. We attempt to make our decisions in a timely manner (the Public Safety Team typically convenes for a 5 a.m. conference call on mornings with “weather”) and the latest information is posted on CSU’s safety website and on CSU’s Facebook and Twitter sites. If the university is closed or has a delayed start, we also will post that information to SOURCE, notify local media and Denver TV stations, and update the campus status line at 970-491-7669. We also will send out an email, but the time it takes to get an email out to 39,000 people can be slower than we’d like – so I’d encourage you to check the safety site and social media first when you need to find out if campus is open.
Winter weather can be messy and creates hassles for all of us. There may be days when you may not feel confident in your ability to get to campus even though the university is open for business. In the end, the best advice I can offer is to stay informed, be prepared, anticipate delays, be safe, and be patient with your colleagues and students as we all work through these situations together.
Even when the sun is shining, this time of year also sees a little uptick in the stress level around campus as people begin working through the last exams before the push into finals. For some, this is routine. But for others, struggling with a variety of issues most of us don’t see, this can be an extremely difficult time. Work hard, do your best, but also keep your perspective. And, please, reach out to friends and colleagues you think may be struggling. If you’re worried about someone, you can always get assistance at our Tell Someone site. If you need help yourself, contact counseling services at the CSU Health Network, if you’re a student, or the Employee Assistance Program, if you’re a faculty or staff member. Remember, our world needs the talents that each and every one of you has to offer, and Rams take care of Rams.
In addition to preparing for exams, take advantage of all there is to do around our campus this time of year. The Fall Dance Concert is coming up this weekend at the University Center for the Arts, and there are recitals and music ensemble performances nearly every evening for the next several weeks. The University Art Museum has a wonderful exhibit of African art from CSU’s largest collection of non- western works. Our No. 10 volleyball team has three home matches coming up starting this Thursday. Our women’s basketball team has been ranked in the top 25 in pre-season polls and will be playing Hawaii on campus on Friday; our men’s basketball team unofficially kicks off its season tonight at Moby with an exhibition game against Fort Lewis at 7 p.m. And, November 22nd will bring the final home football game of the year. Coach Mac and his team have put together one of the best football seasons in CSU history. For those of you who will be in town and interested, come out and enjoy the last home game of this special season. And I’ll suggest a new part to your own football game traditions – stick around and hang next to the band at the end of the game. In addition to being amazing musically and fun to watch and (in my biased opinion) the best marching band around, at the end of the game the team comes over in front of the band and they sing the fight song and the alma mater. It’s pretty cool, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Finally, this time of year already has us into the start of many holiday traditions. It’s a time when many of us travel home and recharge our emotional batteries. But some members of our community don’t have such opportunities and the holidays can bring additional stress. Please consider the various ways we can help those less fortunate within our community and those who are far from their homes and families — whether that means donating to the Food Bank for Larimer County, inviting a guest to your Thanksgiving table, or simply doing a few random acts of kindness when you have the chance.
These gestures can make a big difference. As well, please be respectful of the diversity of religious holiday traditions we celebrate in our pluralistic society – even better, take some time to learn about traditions different from your own. And, above all, please travel safely and make good decisions over the various holiday breaks.
Of course, the next national holiday before us is Thanksgiving. And in that spirit, allow me to offer my thanks to all of you who work so hard to make CSU such a very special community of scholars. I think I’m often guilty of focusing too much on the challenges we face and missing opportunities to realize how lucky we all are to be a part of this great university and what it represents. Thank you for all that you do, and for being a part of our CSU community.
Best wishes as we work through these last couple of weeks before the holiday break, stay healthy, keep focused, and be well.
Dr. Tony Frank