Numerous educational institutions, including Minnesota State University, Mankato, were shut down last week as a consequence of the severe, record breaking cold. Morning classes were cancelled Monday, Jan. 28, and then the entirety of the campus was closed Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 29-30.
They were right to shut down, as under conditions observed during those days, frostbite on exposed skin could set in less than five minutes.
For professors, the effects of the shutdown ranged from modest to severe, with some losing an entire week’s worth of instruction time in some classes.
“It was a big deal,” Dr. Frederick Slocum said. “I’ve been here for 21 years and I’ve never had a weather-related situation like this.”
Dr. Slocum, a professor of political science, lost classes on all three days of cancellation. “In my Southern Politics and Executive Politics courses, I lost an entire week of classes,” said Dr. Slocum.
“The last time Minnesota had temperatures this cold was in 1996,” he added.
Not all professors were as badly affected, largely due to differences in class scheduling. “I lost half of my week,” Dr. Christopher Corley, a professor of history, said. He added that some professors had to move classes online for the week.
For Dr. Corley, the weather and subsequent closure didn’t have as dire an effect. “I don’t see it as a long term issue for my classes this semester.”
However, Dr. Corley added that the loss of instruction time could be more severe if the weather is especially bad in the near future. “If two weeks from now, you have a foot of snow, and you lose a class, then you start to get concerned that students are missing some things.”
Some professors collaborate with faculty and students at other universities, the already complex logistics of which were worsened by the extreme weather, dangerous roads, and closures.
Dr. Chelsea Mead, a professor of anthropology and American Indigenous Studies said, “I work with Bemidji State University, we offer Ojibwe language classes here at the university.” The cancellations at both colleges led to the loss of a week’s worth of instruction time. “We lost a substantial amount,” she added.
Dr. Mead said that the loss of instruction time leads to challenges with deadlines and student activities. “The hard part is, when you get behind in a subject, how do you find that time? Does it change deadlines?”
To prevent students from falling behind, Dr. Mead adjusts classes so that they can be done online. “I utilize our online teaching resources to record lectures and move my classes online so that we can stay on schedule.”
Fortunately, this week does not look as though it will be nearly as bad as the week before it. Nevertheless, winter is still here, and it’s still Minnesota – so only time can tell.
Feature photo by Mansoor Ahmad | MSU Reporter.