Snow causes confusion with classes

XU adopts new inclement weather policy requiring asynchronous classwork

By Hunter Ellis and Chloe Salveson, Multimedia Managing Editor and Show Manager

Xavier’s new inclement weather policy, along with over three inches of ice due to Winter Storm Landon, stirred widespread confusion for both students and faculty about the nature of snow day classes.

The new policy, which requires asynchronous work on inclement weather days, does not replace the old one, as there may be instances where classes need to be canceled. 

However, Dr. Rachel Chrastil, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, emphasized the added flexibility the new policy offers the university in bad weather and other situations.

“We explicitly said that there should not be synchronous teaching because we knew that would cause additional headaches for students… that is the expectation –– there should only be asynchronous work,” Chrastil said.

Despite this assertion, several faculty members still held synchronous Zoom classes.

Dr. Jamie Trnka, chair of the classics and modern languages department, offered her reasoning for the confusion.

“Like students, faculty have many policies to keep up with. Some may have simply missed the detail that remote options should be asynchronous as we all struggle to stay on top of changing information,” Trnka said.

“Others may have struggled to generate new and meaningful content for multiple classes after the end of the business day while caring for families and handling additional childcare responsibilities during snow days in our local public schools,” she added.

“We wanted to be a leader in terms of how we approach weather days,” Chrastil said. “So, we consulted with our faculty committee, we consulted with our deans (and) we asked ourselves ‘What would be the most straightforward way for students to encounter this?’”

Newswire photo by Robbie Dzierzanowski 
Winter Storm Landon brought several inches of snow and ice to the Cincinnati area, leading to the first implementation of Xavier’s new asynchronous  inclement weather policy.

Many students and faculty members have mixed emotions about the new policy. 

Junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and finance double major Daniel Kelly noted that snow days feel like an important part of the experience of living on a college campus.

“It’s more than just a day off of school… I remember  knowing we were going to have a snow day the next day and seeing everybody outside playing snow football, snowball fighting or making snowmen,” Kelly said. 

“I don’t think you can create that with going asynchronous. I just think there’s something about snow days that transcends having or not having class; it’s more about having that community experience,” he added.

Meanwhile, Trnka expressed concerns over the process of drafting the new policy and the added stresses asynchronous classes put on students and staff.

“There was no meaningful faculty involvement in the development and rollout of the new policy. I believe that the policy needs additional review and revision that leaves room for faculty discretion in how best to advance learning while also recognizing the limits of technology,” she said. 

“I am concerned that the notification timeline for transition to remote, asynchronous class is unreasonable and creates an unsustainable workload for faculty and students alike,” Trnka added.

Dr. Tyrone Williams, a professor in the English department, echoed Trnka’s concerns about the workload on asynchronous days, noting requiring asynchronous work may add extra responsibilities for students. 

“As a general policy, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been trying to think about it from the administration’s point of view… We’re going to do (asynchronous classes) because students have all of these other things they have to take care of during a snow emergency. But, if they have all these things to do, isn’t it a burden to give them this extra assignment they weren’t expecting?” he asked.

Chrastil noted that she is working to improve the communication with faculty, staff and students to ensure everyone is on the same page about  asynchronous days, but remained steadfast that the communication has been clear and consistent.

“(The new policy) was part of a letter from me, as provost, sent out in the first week of January prior to the start of classes. (The decision) was also communicated consistently in the XUPD Alert Me system, in the email that went out to all faculty and staff, as well as the email that went out to students that the expectation is for asynchronous teaching,” Chrastil said.

“It stated clearly that it should be asynchronous and no synchronous teaching,” she concluded.

Others believe that the messaging was either inconsistent or confusing.

“I would like better communication at times from teachers in terms of when stuff is due in asynchronous,” Kelly said. 

He added that he sympathizes with professors adjusting to asynchronous learning for inclement weather, noting they learn about asynchronous days “four hours before school is supposed to start… I get that, and that’s part of staying flexible.”

Williams considered the students’ adaptability. 

“Why not just have a regular snow day, where we just cancel everything? Why is it we feel the need that students must have some sort of assignment that (professors) just make up out of nowhere? It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Williams questioned. 

Chrastil expressed understanding that there was some inconsistency in the execution of the new policy: “It is always the case when something changes that you have to communicate it in many different ways and will continue to do so,” she said.

Chrastil and other university faculty are still determining the best time for the policy to be clarified, as it is unlikely there will be another inclement weather day as the end of February nears. To read about the new policy, you can find it on the Weather Policy page on Xavier’s website.