Professors adapt their schedules after polar vortex

trees on campus during the snow days

Story by Anna-JO Stuart, Opinion Editor Intern
Photo courtesy Ty Smith 

Students are quite aware that this has been a disruptive winter at Aquinas. From power outages, to delays and, of course, many cancellations. A memorable moment being a whole week of classes cancelled. This has had an effect on the schedule of all classes, but the largest impact has been on third quadmester classes that do not have a whole semester to try and make up time that has been lost.

Two professors were interviewed about the impact snow days have had on their classes. Dr. Stahle, a professor in the communications department, teaches a hybrid class that meets three times in this quadmester. She says that due to her class being in a hybrid format she has been able to adjust the schedule by canceling their first meeting, rescheduling the second class meeting and altering some of the assignments in her class.  

The snow days have had more of an impact on quads that meet regularly, causing many of them to cut some of the material they had previously intended to cover. Dr. McKelvey, a professor in the biology department, teaches a Parasitology mod that meets twice a week for two hours within the quadmester.

I reduced content in areas I felt were less central to my topic [parasitology],” McKelvey said. This is not ideal for professors, though it seems to be the most popular solution to the issue of having fewer classes than planned.

There were rumors around campus that some quads were cancelled due to the high number of snow days. Elizabeth Flores, interim registrar and director of academic advising, stated that this was not true and that no classes were cancelled this quad or semester due to snow days.

It is important to note that as this quad comes to an end, the impact of the snow days will continue into the next quad as well. Semester classes are still trying to recover from the time that they lost, though most have more flexibility to do this than quads. The science departments are taking a hard hit due to lab meetings required for many of those courses.

“One of the principle impacts in our department has been the repeated cancellation of laboratories. This was especially problematic in genetics, where the students engage in an ongoing lab project that builds on itself week-by-week,” McKelvey said. “It has also impacted labs not even held on days affected by the closures, as many of our courses have multiple lab sections that are synchronized by week. Missing one day might mean the cancellation of up to four lab sections held during the remainder of the week.”

McKelvey also noted that this leaves students unprepared for post-graduate studies due to the certain amount of information they are expected to know after completing a course, such as physiology.

Both Flores and Stahle noted that they appreciate Aquinas College put the safety of the college community first when making cancellation decisions — though this number of cancellations at Aquinas is unprecedented. Stahle mentioned that she has not seen this number of cancellations in her 33 years at Aquinas. This has thus left college professors to deal with this new circumstance, and there is a call for some policy revisions that would help to deal with this kind of situation in the future.

“I think it’s essential that we come up with a policy whereby disruptions that reach some predetermined threshold would trigger contingencies that enable us to make up for lost class time,” McKelvey said. “I know that many students have pre-set work schedules, athletic event calendars and pre-arranged spring break travel plans, so I do appreciate the difficulties inherent in designing such a policy. But I also think we owe it to our students to see that they receive the quality (and quantity) of education they’ve been promised.” 

Flores added to this, stating that it is possible that future academic calendars may include make-up days, and that this idea is under review though not yet finalized.

The snow days in this quad have undoubtedly made this an interesting start to the semester. Not only has this unprecedented event had an impact on how professors are teaching this quad and semester, but it may have an impact on how snow days are handled in the years to come at Aquinas. A polar vortex in the future may not just mean sleeping in and drinking hot cocoa on a weekday, we may have wake up early and take our hot cocoa to class on Saturday. 

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