New Board Updates, Starting with Weather Policy

By Elise Lepage

Greetings FAUWers,

I’m one of the newest Directors on the FAUW Board, and will start hearing from me quite regularly on this blog (I hope!) to share what this Board is about and what it is doing for you.

Having attended bi-weekly Board meetings since last summer, I have been amazed by the number of crucial issues that FAUW is committed to. Meeting agendas are packed with a variety of burning topics requiring a range of expertise, and fostering in-depth discussions.

My hope is that regular, short updates on the blog will help you better understand FAUW’s role, gain insight into what is at stake, and encourage you to reflect upon the UW environment – and to share your stories with us.

 * * * 

I will start this week with a timely issue: the Severe Weather Policy. This issue stems from 2015 when the University of Waterloo remained open during a very stormy winter day. The University updated the weather closing guidelines on January 19 of this year, and has agreed to discuss, with FAUW, revisions to these guidelines as they are integrated into the University’s overarching emergency guidelines.

The FAUW Board and SWEC have been hearing a number of concerns from faculty, mainly about the need for clear and transparent standards for non-closure during severe weather, such as priority snow clearance routes to aid accessibility, and accommodating missed classes fairly.

As this important discussion continues, the silver lining is perhaps that the remaining weeks of the winter semester may bring more spring than snow!

As always, we want to know how issues are affecting you. Please join the conversation in the comments, or send private concerns via email.

Sort of Snow Day

by: The FAUW Board

Deciding whether or not to close UW due to harsh weather conditions is a big decision and is not an easy call to make.  However, leaving UW open when the rest of the region is closed for business (all elementary and post-secondary schools, some businesses) during the obviously terrible conditions last Monday morning (February 2) would suggest the possibility that the bar for closure at UW has risen significantly higher than it has been in the past. 
During the inevitable and hopefully multi-stakeholder discussions on this topic, FAUW hopes to see the following questions/issues addressed:

  1. What decision-making body should be responsible for approving the university’s closing procedures?  According to the UW Weather-Emergency Closing Guidelines, this is Executive Council since they approved the current closing guidelines.  Shouldn’t the guidelines be debated and approved by UW Senate? Senate currently approves the schedule each year including closure of UW over the Christmas holidays.
  2. What precisely are the consequences of closing campus?  Asking faculty, staff and students to bear additional risks by travelling to campus during extraordinary weather conditions implies the additional risks are worth taking to avoid the closure consequences.  Note that UW Weather-Emergency Closing Guidelines indicate there is no requirement to reschedule cancelled classes.
  3. What extra resources and preparations (i.e., dollars), beyond a normal weather day, did UW allocate on the morning of February 2nd to safely prepare to have 20,000+ people come to campus?
  4. Why was the announcement confirming the opening campus delayed until after 7:00 am?  What was known at 7:00 am that was not known at 6:00 am?  Should the decision be made (yea or nay) and announced at 6:00 am when there is a severe storm warning?
  5. Is leaving the decision to reschedule a class in response to a UW closure at the discretion of each course instructor (see link above to guidelines) appropriate?  Why not mandate the first lost teaching day to be made up on the first weekday in the period between the last day of classes and the start of examinations?
  6.  Is it a good or bad thing that UW staying open February 2 made the national and international news and lit up social media (UW was trending 3rd in North America on social media on Monday)?

Addressing the above questions directly, among others, will  better prepare UW to repspond to future inclement weather. 


Leave a comment and let us know what you think along with other stories about February 2nd.