Augustana closes campus due to life-threatening temperatures


Students on the quad between Olin and Hanson walk to class in freezing temperatures. Photo by Emma Gannaway/Observer Staff.

Jordan Cone

Augustana College announced on Monday, Jan. 28 that campus would close Wednesday, Jan. 30 due to dangerously cold winter temperatures.
With a high of -13 and wind chill measurements reaching -50, conditions put anyone who is outside at risk of contracting frostbite and hypothermia within minutes.
A team of eight administrators from groups like facilities, public safety, student life and academic affairs decide whether or not campus will close. Usually, this is done over a conference call at 5:30 a.m. on the day in question, and decisions are influenced by weather forecasts, the National Weather Service and campus conditions.
“It is not typical that the decision is made this far in advance,” Ashleigh Johnston, Director of Public Relations and Social Media said in an email. “However, due to the confidence of the forecast, the team determined it was best to make the decision and communicate it sooner rather than later.”
“The college tries to stay open whenever possible given the impacts to class and lab hours lost, music ensembles, athletics, etc,” Johnston said. “It’s not always an easy decision to make, but the team really is dedicated to doing what they think is best for the health and safety for everyone on campus.”
Robert Lanzerotti, the Director of Facilities, said in an email that with this weather comes potential water freezing issues: “Some of the TLA’s may experience frozen pipes due to the pipes’ proximity to the exterior walls, or if a window or door is left open too long.”
To confront these potential issues, and in an effort to prevent them, Lanzerotti said, “We will be doing building walks to be sure we have adequate heat in all areas of each structure. We will be fielding calls from dispatch when students call in for assistance with no heat or running water due to frozen pipes. We are working closely with Res Life to be sure we have places to relocate students if necessary due to an outage of heat or water that can not be fixed in a timely manner.”
Lyazid Skalli, an international student from Morocco, said, “My dad told me to hibernate for the next few days…I am not going out unless it is necessary with like an emergency.”
Tom Phillis, Chief of Police at Augustana, is a member of the team that decides whether or not campus closes. But even when the decision to close is made, Public Safety itself remains open as they provide essential emergency services.
Phillis said that in extreme temperatures such as these, Public Safety receives requests for help digging vehicles out of the snow, which they aren’t set up to respond to. “We recommend students carry a shovel and salt in their cars during the winter,” Phillis said.
Phillis also determines whether or not the Augustana College Express Service (ACES), which provides students with rides around campus, will run.
The service was also closed on Wednesday, Jan. 30, though this is not the first time this winter season that ACES has canceled its services – something that has prompted reactions from students.
“It’s pretty much come up in a lot of conversations this week among people I know where, it’s kind of become just a, ‘Oh, it’s 5 o’clock, it’s about time for ACES to close tonight,’” Junior Jack Harris said. “It is something that’s frustrating but we’ve kind of just started to joke about it because it’s become so regular.
Junior Robert Burke said that he was in class joking with a fellow student about creating a “Backup ACES.”
“I think one of the nice things about ACES is that it can drive you places when the weather is bad,” Burke said. “Like if it’s raining they can usually drive you but when they’re closed every single night it defeats the point, and if the reason is because side streets are messy – and they are – the city will take a day or two after it snows to plow them which is irritating.”
So, as a solution, Burke said, “I was thinking like if there was just a Facebook group that everyone could post in, like, ‘I’m going here, does anyone need a ride at this time?’ or like, ‘Is anyone driving here to here?’ I think that would be a cool thing for when ACES is down. So, I don’t know, this is like, a makeshift solution. Like reverse uber, or reverse ACES, even.”
“We’re trying to find a solution,” Director of ACES, sophomore Caleb Gruden said about how frequently ACES closes. “But as of right now our cars can’t handle the snow. We’re looking out for our drivers’ safety and also the safety of the students. We’re trying to address the issue and find a way to get a better car, hopefully in the future, but right now it’s not in the budget.”
In regards to ACES closing on Wednesday, Gruden said, “All operations with the school were closed that day but the day before – Tuesday night – our cars got so cold that one of the handles broke off. So our cars just weren’t functional with the cold and we didn’t want to risk our drivers going out there.”
Dean Wes Brooks, a member of the team who determines campus cancellations said, “I am extremely proud of the work that Augustana’s winter weather team has done. I know that the winter weather team will do what is best for Augustana and its staff and students.”
Olivia Doak and Brady Johnson contributed to this story.
Featured Image:
Students on the quad between Olin and Hanson walk to class in freezing temperatures. Photo by Emma Gannaway/Observer Staff.