From the president: Explaining snow days

As a child, I loved school. But this time of year, there was just something special about a snow day.

Last week, we called our second snow day in three years here at Castleton University. There’s been countless days where snow has blanketed our campus in between. And on those days, where the snow accumulated several inches or more, we’ve implored our students to get to class.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t take precautions. Safety is always a priority.

In reality, there’s no such thing as a snow day. Our University is a 24/7 operation, and it doesn’t stop for the weather. When considering a snow day, we take into consideration so much more than our students (both residential and commuters) and our faculty and staff. The decision impacts the outside groups we may be hosting for conferences and events, our athletics schedule, student teaching, clinical and field placements, internships, and now, our additional campuses in Bennington and Killington. Because 50 percent of our students live on campus in our residence halls, we must also continue to provide essential services such as dining and public safety.   

When a weather event first pops up on the radar, a small team begins to track its progress and discuss options for our campus. This response team is made up of Dean of Students Dennis Proulx, Director of Public Safety Keith Molinari, and Director of Facilities Chuck Lavoie. It is their job to consider a multitude of factors, such as how well we can clear campus and what we need to do to make sure the sidewalks aren’t covered in ice. This team continues to track the weather until they can answer these questions. I appreciate this team’s leadership and careful decision-making.

It’s important to understand that our philosophy has always been that each individual must decide for themselves if they should journey to campus during a weather event. When the team calls a snow day, they are not making the decision based on road safety. It’s not that they don’t cancel classes based on driving conditions, it’s more that they aren’t equipped to make that the determining factor. With students, faculty and staff coming from all corners of our state and those that border it, there’s no way to make a call that is appropriate for every person on our campus. 

We believe that everyone in our community should be encouraged to make the decision for themselves. I’ve recognized that our faculty make a point of working with students; many build in a number of excused and unexcused absences into their syllabi for life’s happenings – whether that be sickness, family emergencies, and yes, even the weather.

We believe you deserve to get every bit of the education that you pay for. As an institution of higher learning, we don’t have the same opportunity to make up classes as in a K-12 environment. Because it is our goal to develop students into engaged citizens who have the potential to change the world, it’s important to us that you have the option to be in class, learning and growing. So, while snow days will always be a bit exciting, I hope you think there’s just as much excitement to be had in class. Happy winter!

Your President,

Dr. Karen M. Scolforo

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