The UIS Community

A new kind of conversation addressing issues that UIS students and staff care about.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When it's bitterly cold, we still have work to do

One of the hardest parts about being in administration is to be accused of not caring about people, especially during when the bitter winter weather hits.

I heard some really ugly accusations, and maybe lost a couple of friends, when UIS established its Inclement Weather policy a few years ago. People told me bluntly: "You don't care about our safety." They believe it with great passion. They were angry, hurt. I know they were wrong with that conclusion, but I understand that they think administration was wrong.

Our policy basically says that we're usually going to stay open. Why? Because the university is a complex organization. More than a thousand students live on campus, for example, and a few of them are here even during the break. They need food and heat. That's basic, and we have to provide it.

Not many commercial businesses or offices close entirely for snow days, but not many grade schools or high schools stay open on the really bad days. UIS is both a business operation and an educational institution.

So our policy is also clear in another way: If you can't make it to work when we stay open, don't come. Don't risk your own safety. Just let your supervisor know. Take a day of your vacation and we'll call it even. After all, some of your colleagues do have to be at the university.

Yesterday was an extraordinarily bad day. Sunday's snow was blowing and temperatures were worse than -10 degrees. So we closed. But essential personnel came -- those who could. I was on campus half a day and mine was the only car in Parking Lot E. And Chancellor Koch was there, too, by the way. My gratitude is off the charts for my colleagues who got there much earlier and had the parking lots and sidewalks clear and safe for driving and walking. They always do -- those amazing people.

The fact that UIS was nearly a ghost town yesterday meant that our policy worked. We kept the campus safe for those few who were there, while most of our 800 employees had the day off. Keeping safe, I hope.

I understand that not everybody understands that this is how it's supposed to work.