52°F & Clear 7 day forecast Friday, April 18, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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GV prepares for Michigan weather conditions

snowfall
Photo: Amanda Greenwood / Grand Valley Lanthorn

GVL / Amanda Greenwood

Photo Illustration: Measured snowfall at Grand Valley

With lake effect snow and Michigan weather, Grand Valley State University has to have a solid snow day and weather policy in place. The GVSU Public Safety and Facilities Services help university officials decide whether or not the university will be closed on days with harsher weather conditions.

“There is no great mystery to our closing policy: generally, we don’t close,” said Matt McLogan, vice president of university relations. “With thousands of students living on campus and thousands also living nearby in off-campus housing, essential services need to be available 24/7. Whether we hold classes is almost wholly dependent on the condition of the area’s roadways in order that faculty, staff and commuting students can reach campus safely.”

Snow days are dependent on the ability of Facilities Services to keep the roadways clear, and they work closely with Public Safety to determine a snow day, said Tim Thimmesch, associate vice president of Facilities Services. Staff inform Thimmesch and the police chief about the campus conditions, how well they can clear and maintain parking lots, sidewalks and roads, as well as area primary and secondary road conditions. After taking this into consideration, the GVSU police department and Facilities Services make a recommendation whether the university should continue operations or not, said Brandon DeHaan, captain of the Grand Valley Police Department.

“The way we look at it is that we are trying to keep operations going,” DeHaan said. “Students are paying money for going to classes and there are a number of people who can get here quite easily because the buses have been able to continue on.”

Weather reports and changing conditions are also monitored for the university’s ability to keep conditions safe. Since students, faculty and staff are coming from a broad geographic area, the weather can be very different from one area to the next, DeHaan said. He added that those coming to campus must decide for themselves what is safe and what they are able to do.

“Each individual is responsible for themselves and must make a decision that is best for them based on their driving ability and how they can manage the weather conditions present,” Thimmesch said. “Since we draw students from a large geographic area, the weather might be different in the various locations.”

Students who miss class because of the weather can sometimes have an excused absence if the professor for their class allows it. Thimmesch said this all depends on the professor and the class.

“Each class has a policy as to absences, so students must be in contact with professors and instructors in this regard,” he said.

DeHaan added that GVSU students are adults and should make their decision of whether they can make it to class on days with bad weather.

“If students think that it is too dangerous then they need to use their best judgment in the situation,” he said.

Thimmesch said the policy has been around for a long time but is reviewed to see if modifications need to be made.

“This policy has been in place for many years and has had input from constituencies across campus over this time,” he said. “The policy is reviewed annually for any needed changes.”

Overall, GVSU tries to stay open for most days so that students can have access to resources on campus and go to the classes they are paying for. GVSU does not have snow days very often because of this reason, McLogan said.
shillenbrand@lanthorn.com



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