Senate Advocates for Class Cancellation Following Winter Storm

Resulting in a Campus Closure on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday

Although there was no public Senate meeting this week, Senate was definitely working. Snow and freezing temperatures caused widespread power outages, cancellations to classes and COVID surveillance testing, as well as the collapse of the Sports Center, all within a few days. In response, the Emergency Response Team (ERT) sent out an email early Monday morning cancelling classes for the day. Later, Senate emailed administrators formally requesting classes be cancelled all week, and forwarded the email to the student body. In the email, Senate noted “immense stress and pressure on students and faculty alike” as well as off-campus students still experiencing the effects of the storm, especially power outages, as reasons for cancellation to extend to the entire week. 

Old Dorm Block with the collapsed dining tent. Photo by Albert Kerelis.

Old Dorm Block with the collapsed dining tent. Photo by Albert Kerelis.

Later on Monday, the ERT sent out another email to the Reed community stating that “due to power outages and difficulty getting to and around campus,” Tuesday’s classes would be cancelled as well. The ERT noted that the “Studio Art, Chemistry, and Psychology buildings, as well as the language houses” were still without power. Senate again requested classes be cancelled all week and expressed concerns to administrators. Late Tuesday, the ERT informed the community that campus would be closed and classes would be cancelled on Wednesday. The email also announced intentions to return to normal campus operations and classes on Thursday. 

Senate countered on Wednesday with an email addressing administrators’ wishes to reopen campus, reiterating their previous objections. Senate wrote, “we feel this is an inadequate assessment of the situation given that a large portion of off-campus students are still experiencing power outages which have affected their ability to gain access to the internet and to heating for the past six days. We request that classes remain cancelled until we can ensure that all members of the student body have access to the internet and are able to stay in proper housing.”  

Wednesday’s ERT email was accompanied by an email from President Audrey Bilger. She stated, “I know that the decision to reopen tomorrow feels too early for some and too late for others.” She also encouraged people “in positions of authority [to] offer flexibility and support to those who face continued challenges leftover from the storm.” 

This week really proved that without constantly checking the administration, it’s the jobs of students to prioritize the mental and physical health of the community.
— Student Body Senator Alondra Loza ’23

Following nearly a week with no surveillance testing, the ERT email encouraged those accessing campus to sign up for one COVID surveillance test in the Student Union, where testing will now take place. Senate rebutted against ERT’s decision to resume classes, writing in an email to administrators, forwarded to the student body, that it is “unjust to expect students who have been without heat and utilities for six days to focus on schoolwork when their main concerns should be finding warmth, finding food, and securing housing.” In the same email, Senate requested administrators “address our previously outlined concerns and how you believe your response has adequately solved and remedied these issues.”

Included in the email was a petition created by Senate to cancel classes for the remainder of the week. According to an email from Senator Orion Pendragon, over a third of the student body has signed the petition as of Thursday morning.

A response to the petition did not come until Thursday afternoon, after classes had resumed. Vice President for Student Life Dr. Karnell McConnell-Black wrote the reply. In the email, McConnell-Black addressed concerns about COVID-19 testing by focusing on the resumption of testing. He also stated that the ERT has been “monitoring the recent snow storm’s impact on community members” and deemed the campus safe for classes. Senate’s concern that resuming classes would heighten the stress on students was not addressed in the response to the petition. 

The Quest received statements from both Senator Alondra Loza and Student Body President Pryia Narain regarding Reed’s response to students. Loza stated, “this week really proved that without constantly checking the administration, it’s the jobs of students to prioritize the mental and physical health of the community.” Narain added, “I hope that in the midst of all this chaos, you all are staying safe. If you are in need of emergency housing, please contact Residence Life. If you have any questions or concerns, please email us [at]. We will do everything we can to help.”

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