Some students had a break last weekend when Eastern canceled Saturday classes for the first time.
Blair Lord, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, said class cancelations in general have been relatively rare in the last 15 years. Lord makes the decision on whether to cancel classes or not at Eastern.
“I only deal with the campus, all others are handled by the School of Continuing Education,” he said. “We’d rather hold classes.”
Lord said classes offered on Saturdays are for non-traditional students, and the Saturday class cancelation can make more of a difference than a weekday cancelation.
Although Lord said canceling classes on Saturday was an aberrant event, he was still prepared.
“Late Friday afternoon, there was a storm warning,” he said. “I asked the web team to put a weather banner on the website.”
When he got the call on Saturday, Lord was initially conflicted over whether or not to cancel classes.
“They called at 4, but I didn’t make the decision until after 5,” he said. “It was the reasonable and proper decision.”
Not everyone is always happy about the decision made, though.
“No matter what decision it is, somebody doesn’t like it,” he said. “Students, faculty, somebody doesn’t like it.”
A lot of the motivation to keep the school open is academic.
“Students pay good money, and we want to teach them,” Lord said. “While it may not be pleasant, it is not an insurmountable problem.”
He said if the post office is able to do their job in the cold weather, student should be able to as well.
“If they can deliver the mail, we can get to class,” Lord said.
Students, especially commuters, are still encouraged to use their best judgment and make practical decisions on whether or not they can go to class.
“We would never order someone from Decatur to travel here on ice,” he said.
On a day with inclement weather, Lord gets a call from The Watch Commander from the University Police at 5 a.m. so they can have the notice posted by 5:30 a.m.
The Watch Commander assesses the current weather conditions, such as the current icing and snow conditions, predicted weather, the Illinois State Police and Illinois Department of Transportations’ weather advisories and reports from utility providers.
Lord then checks with Dan Nadler, the vice president for student affairs, to see what is going on in Student Affairs. If he decides to close the school, he posts the notice online, and calls Vicki Woodard in media relations, who has a list of TV and radio stations that she contacts.
“People know to check out what’s going on in Charleston,” Lord said.
To be able to call into the media stations and let them know classes have been canceled, the person calling needs a secret code.
“This is so your roommate can’t just call them up and say Eastern is closed,” Lord said.
Before working at Eastern, Lord worked as the provost of the University of Rhode Island, where one year he did not know the code. This led to problems when a TV station in Rhode Island said classes were canceled in the main campus when they really were not.
“I didn’t have the passcode, so I called telling them who I was, and I said you got it wrong,” he said.
Lord said there has never been an incident like this at Eastern.
One some rare occasions, classes will be canceled in the middle of the day.
“These create more chaos for the student,” Lord said.
Lord said in the 14 years he has been at Eastern, classes were not canceled in half of them. In the other half, it varied.
“Some years we have three or four, some years we have one,” he said.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]