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For the second time in less than a week, Kutztown University President Javier Cevallos chose to send faculty, staff, and students out into hazardous weather conditions and then decided a short time later to reverse course and close the university. On Monday, Kutztown University the announcement went out at 5:29 am that classes before noon were cancelled, but the university was open. The upshot of that meant that non-teaching employees at the university – secretaries, custodians, electrician, etc. –  still had to show up for work at their scheduled times. For most of those university employees, that meant getting to KU at 8 am or before. At 8:43 am, Cevallos reversed course and closed the university, sending all those workers back onto the roads in the middle of the worst winter storm of the season thus far. Many faculty had already begun their commutes to KU, leaving extra early due to the treacherous conditions. Many of them did not find out the university was closed until they pulled into the parking lot and check their phones. After all, if you’re trying to drive safely in the middle of a snow storm, chances are you’re not checking your email.

Shortly after his second decision, Cevallos sent this apology to the university community:

Dear Campus Community:

We are closing today, Monday 2/3.  I apologize for making some of you drive in such difficult conditions.  At 5:00 a.m. when I made the decision to cancel morning classes the forecast was for snow to end in the morning.  It is always a difficult decision, we do the best we can with the information we have.  Please drive safely.

OK. An apology. That’s better than what happened several times before – like during the February 1, 2011 storm. Lesson  learned, right?

Not so much.

Despite warnings from the National Weather Service and virtually every regional media outlet, it was deja vu all over again.

Here’s KU’s web page at 5:25 am:

KU weather 1

OK. At least the whole university was closed until noon. That must be what everyone else was doing then, right? Again, no so much.

West Chester University:

West Chester Closed

Cheney University:

Cheney Closed

East Stroudsburg University:

ESU Closed

Even the Dixon University Center – PASSHE’s corporate headquarters was closed:

Dixon Closed

The Borough of Kutztown also listened to the National Weather Service and issued a snow emergency. Kutztown University even posted it on their web page:

Borough Emergency

But maybe PASSHE universities were being extra cautious. Or maybe, conditions in the immediate area of Kutztown University were significantly different than everywhere else. Let’s see:

Alvernia University in Reading:

Alvernia Closed

Albright University in Reading:

Albright Closed

Reading Area Community College:

RACC Closaed

Lehigh Carbon Community College in Allentown:

LCCC Closed

So, it seems that there was at least a consensus that conditions were hazardous and that it was better to make sure people were not out on the roads, weathering sleet and freezing rain (not to mention power outages across the region).

Well, it seems Cevallos was a little late to the party, but by 9:50 am he had reversed course.

KU Weather 2

As much as Kutztown’s administration would like to continuously state that they make mistakes due to situations out of control, it should be painfully clear to anyone with have a memory that this is a failure of leadership. Flip-flopping on weather decisions is only a symptom.

Framingham Hoodie

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I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Kutztown University’s President, Javier Cevallos, for the delayed opening of the campus (9:30am instead of 8am) and his subsequent decision to close the university at noon.

KU Alert – Information

Posted: 2/1/11, 9:53 a.m.
WEATHER ALERT: Campus to close at noon
Kutztown University will close at noon.

Posted: 2/1/11, 6:53 a.m.
WEATHER ALERT: Campus to open at 9:30 AM

Classes beginning before 9:30 AM are canceled.  Administrative offices will open at 9:30 AM.

Shuttle bus will begin running its routes at 8:30 AM.

Information on individual event/office closures

Opening up the university for what amounts to one class period, afforded faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to navigate treacherous roads, freezing rain, and hazardous conditions so that we could spend a small portion of our day at Do More With Less University–our beloved home away from home.

Not only do I appreciate my short time here today, I also am grateful for the 1 hour and 40 minutes I got to spend listening to NPR and the BBC on my slow and dangerous commute.  I am sure that my colleagues and students have their own stories of thanks.

My one concern at this point has to do with the financial viability of our university.  As much as I cherish the opportunity to spend a couple of hours on our beloved campus, I can’t help feeling a little guilty as I turned on my office lights and booted up my computer.  Given the looks on the faces of other faculty in my building, I suspect they are plagued with similar guilt.  As most readers of the XChange know, KU is facing a severe budget crisis.  President Cevallos has already retrenched several faculty, cut services to at-risk students, eliminated programs that have been part of KU’s fabric since its founding, and sent many non-tenure track faculty packing.  True, he has been able to preserve is ice cream socials (thank God).

Today, however, I can’t help but feel like all these lights, computers, smart classrooms, heaters, copiers, printers and other devices that rely upon electricity are going to cost the university a significant amount of money.  Normally, such expenses are necessary and understandable given that our classrooms are filled with students and we are working full days.  However, as I walked the halls of Lytle this morning, most classrooms were empty or occupied by a small group of students who weathered the  weather to share their joy of learning with us.  So, while I am personally overjoyed being here, I am concerned that this use of energy will only contribute to Kutztown University’s budget woes.

Then I remembered something.  President Cevallos got a 5% raise this year for his stellar leadership, vision, and fundraising.  And I know that he cares only about the success of our university.  Given how dire he says our financial outlook is, I was initially surprised that he did not voluntarily refuse or return his raise.  I was further puzzled when he didn’t announce that he would donate all of his raise to student scholarships or professional development or even the university’s general fund.  But now I understand.  He held onto his raise so that he could personally pay the utility costs for opening the university for one class so that all of us could just be here.  With him.  On this horrible, dangerous, icy day.

So, let us all join together and thank President Cevallos for his vision and exceptional decision-making.  Drop him an email and let him know that his work does not go unnoticed.

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