North Texas Daily

Ice storm created issues campus-wide

Ice storm created issues campus-wide

December 20
17:50 2013

Tim Cato / News Editor

After six consecutive days of campus-wide shutdowns due to ice and unsafe conditions last week, the UNT campus is back to normal after the winter storm caused closures in Denton and some of the DFW area.

Dr. Warren Burggren, provost and vice president for academic affairs, was one of the UNT officials at the center of the decisions to shut down the school last week. With the storm now in the past, he will lead the charge as the university examines the choices made.

“We are going to have a fairly deep dive into this,” Burggren said. “A ‘post-mortem’ considering what we did that worked really well and how we can do more of it, and what we did that didn’t work.”

UNT alerted students of the decision to close school through the Eagle Alert system each night. President V. Lane Rawlins was ultimately in charge of each decision, while staying in constant contact with Burggren, Associate Vice President of Facilities David Reynolds and UNT Chief of police Richard Deter.

Some of the confusion with the announcements was due to unpredictable weather temperatures – including when UNT officials announced school would be open on Tuesday, Dec. 10, before later sending out messages delaying and then closing the campus.

“One of the things that was really difficult and why we had these rolling announcements was that two nights in a row, it was almost ten degrees colder than it had been forecast,” Burggren said. “One of the Tuesday night late announcements was simply because it was much colder than they had predicted and there hadn’t been the degree of melting that we anticipated.”

UNT did not have a protocol for delaying final exams due to weather in place, as Burggren said no one could remember such an event taking place in UNT’s history. Although the campus shut down for five days in February 2011, the timing of the two storms created a very different situation.

“It wouldn’t have reached the crisis proportion that it did because it was during final exams,” Burggren said. “It’s one thing to have your economics Monday class canceled because of weather and the instructor can kind of weave that material in. It’s another thing when you’ve got all of our students with final exams.”

The facilities department followed the same guidelines as any other storm.

“When we see a forecast for a winter storm, we start taking preparations to make sure we have all the right materials on hand and all the right people lined up as emergency crews,” Reynolds said.

An estimated cost to repair the damages is still being collected, but most of the total will be due to materials and contractors, Reynolds said. Several skylights in the Business Leadership Building were damaged, something that will require UNT to hire contractors outside of the facilities department.

Students made a push to put finals online, with one petition on receiving more than 8,000 signatures. However, Burggren said that while the concept was good, it would not have actually been possible.

“One of the key points for me is that students pushed hard for things to go online and, in theory, sure,” he said. “In practice, it’s just not at all feasible to put that many exams for that many students online in such a short notice.”

UNT’s registrar’s office had its own difficulties adjusting the final exam schedule for the week each time the campus closed.

“When you’re dealing with so many classes and so many students, you know there’s no option you can come up with that’s not going to create some conflicts for people,” Associate Registrar Keitha Robertson said.

It was Robertson’s team who was in charge of adjusting the schedule throughout the week, putting in extra hours to produce feasible solutions.

“When all was said and done, I really think things worked out the best way it possibly could,” she said.

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