MCC Daily Tribune
President's Wednesday Message
Last week's closure due to the cold brought on by the polar vortex was a reminder to share how we decide to close the College for a weather emergency and how we communicate this decision.
Because we are a community college, our decision tree differs from that used at a residential college, like SUNY Brockport or RIT or Nazareth. Some key demographic characteristics of our students that distinguish them from their four-year college and university peers:
- They commute. About 40% of our students use public transportation; the remainder walk, bike, drive, or rideshare.
- They often have primary care-taking duties for children, grandchildren, and/or siblings.
- They usually don't have the social or financial capital to make alternate arrangements for child care or transportation.
- They often live in places more immediately impacted by power outages and may also see delays in plowing and/or restoration of services.
Whenever possible, MCC's commitment is to advise the College community by 11:00 pm if we will be closed the next day or have a delayed opening. There is always the chance that a storm suddenly worsens overnight, causing us to make a late call to close, so if you have any doubt, check local news sources, the MCC web site and social media channels, or look for an MCC Alert message. Sometimes we need to close early due to weather, power outages, or other situations; in such cases, we will use these same communication sources.
I have learned through the years--in hurricanes, storms, ice, snow, wind, extreme cold, and random power outages--that the decision to close the College (or keep it open) will disappoint someone. While the final call on closing is mine (that buck stops here), it is not made in isolation. I consult with the leadership team and get input from the Public Safety and Facilities departments. What information is important in making this decision? Some of the questions we ask ourselves include the following:
- Has the County or State declared a state of emergency? If so, does it include travel restrictions?
- Is travel likely to be hazardous regardless of restrictions? What is the condition of the main routes to our campuses and centers? Would it be better to delay opening than close outright?
- Are the parking lots and campus roads cleared? Can we keep them cleared?
- Will public transportation be running? If so, for how long? Are busses running late? If so, by how much time?
- Are power outages impacting MCC? At one location or all? Our students and employees? What can emergency management or RG&E share about the time to restoration?
- Has the College experienced facilities damage? At one location or all?
- Have the school districts announced closures? All or just a handful?
- Will we have a sufficient window to empty the campus before a weather event or is it better to shelter in place?
- Will students/faculty/staff have sufficient time to make alternate arrangements for family responsibilities if the college stays open or reopens?
- Will we have enough people--employees and students--who can make it to the College to justify staying open or reopening?
- How stressful is the weather emergency and its aftermath for our students, faculty and staff?
Weather conditions can vary dramatically across our region. Even if MCC is open, you may feel that conditions where you live make travel unsafe. That is your decision to make and communicate as appropriate.
At times, for the same reasons, the Provost and Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development and Career Technical Education may request that faculty take weather conditions into consideration in handling student absences: the conditions near our students' homes may differ from those around campus.
What are your thoughts on weather emergencies and college closings? Share them on the blog.
Office of the President