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What to do when extreme weather hits the U

So far, the snow season of 2023-24 has gotten off to a slow start. But that likely won’t last throughout spring semester.

University of Utah leaders have developed additional guidance for extreme weather events to reduce frustration and make certain all students, faculty and staff are well-prepared.

In a Dec. 15 email to campus, senior vice presidents Mike Good and Mitzi Montoya urged deans, department chairs, faculty members and managers to follow emergency alert instructions and guidance from their departments and colleges, but also “use their best judgment and err on the side of caution, to protect the safety of their students and themselves.”

Of course, as an academic medical center (including multiple health care clinics and a Level 1 trauma center hospital), with thousands of students living on campus, and childcare centers that students and employees alike depend on, the University of Utah campus never technically “closes.” But, in essence, in their message Montoya and Good said, that campus leaders should use common sense when it comes to cancelling or moving classes and operations to online or remote platforms during a serious storm.

Most importantly, during a weather emergency, campus leaders will prioritize safety, flexibility, empathy and compassion, and clear communication, the senior vice presidents said. For example, instructors should consider options for their classes in the case of a weather alert or campus closure, including shifting coursework and lectures online, offering flexible deadlines and providing videos of class activities for lab sections that happen once a week and cannot be canceled.

If we do have a weather emergency, students should look for information about their classes through UMail and Canvas and reach out to their instructors if needed. Staff can expect to receive instructions from their managers, and should reach out if they are unsure. But, most importantly, students, staff, faculty, managers, and leaders should think of safety first—their own, and others’.

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we deliver higher education. While that shift was painful, it also taught us how to do things differently, to think on our feet, and to innovate. Let’s use those skills to compromise and be creative about these occasional weather events,” Good and Montoya wrote. “If we are nimble and practical, the University of Utah’s response to the uncertainties of weather forecasting will be much more efficient and lead to a quicker pivot back to normal operations.”