Jack Frost visited Vermillion over the long weekend, and with the fresh layer of snow covering the town, professors had to decide whether to risk the weather or cancel classes.
Classes were not canceled at a university level, but for Sydney Evans, a graduate assistant in the English department, and other commuting professors, safety was at risk, which led her to cancel her English courses for the day.
Evans and her husband live in Sioux Falls. She said because the Sioux Falls and surrounding areas schools canceled classes, she did not think it was fair to ask her students to risk the storm to get to class.
“Even Vermillion public school had canceled, so I thought it was a little absurd USD didn’t consider canceling,” she said. “I think it is difficult to discern what’s the difference between the 17-year-old… going to school and the 18-year-old college student going to school.”
Emily Quinn, a professor in the Beacom School of Business, also commutes from Sioux Falls and also had to cancel classes on Friday. Quinn and Evans both said they are more understanding when students have to miss a class due to weather implications because of their own 45-minute commutes.
“(I do have) a degree of empathy for students who are facing similar issues,” Quinn said. “I think everybody understands that we live in an area where the weather is a factor, so it is going to impact scheduled events and that’s just part of life.”
Being from the midwest, Quinn said she is accustomed to winter weather, but it still impacts her ability to get to class, specifically during the spring semester.
Quinn said she was surprised classes weren’t canceled last Friday, but she said she trusts people with more experience to make the right call when it comes to weather-related cancellations.
“I relied on those experts to say I wasn’t going to get out of town and certainly wasn’t going to get back. I trust the people who have more weather experience making those decisions,” Quinn said. “Understanding your intuition and trusting your gut (is what I always follow) and relying on the experts that are there to give us that weather information.”
After moving to South Dakota from China, graduate assistant, Jeremiah Davis decided to live in Elk Point instead of Vermillion. His commute is generally around 20 minutes each way.
“I wanted to live somewhere a little quieter,” Davis said. “Having to commute hasn’t been too challenging, I just have to be a little bit more generous with my office hours on campus and also I have to be more aware of when I leave.”
The three all said communication is key when it comes to weather-related issues. Quinn said she communicates with students if she has to miss class and expects the same.
“I communicate that I live in Sioux Falls class number one. Students are aware that I have that 45-minute commute,” Quinn said.
All three professors also said safety is their main priority.
For Evans, she said finding the balance between academic success and real life is vital.
“School has its place in your life, and the education you’re pursuing has its place,” Evans said. “For me personally, I’m a human being first … and I want to be safe and I want my students to be safe as well… We need to figure out what are priorities and always take care of ourselves first. You can always make up a day and talk to your professor … but it’s hard to make up an injury.”