By Jasmine Driggs
Winter Storm Jonas impacted many areas and people during the late weeks of January, but luckily enough it spared the Hampton Roads area. People in this area were not affected greatly by the weather, but Virginia Wesleyan College felt the impact of the storm in many different ways.
Many students were beginning to pack and gather their things in order to return to campus on Jan. 25, however Winter Storm Jonas stinted the travel of students and faculty. The winter storm caused a lot of decisions to be made very quickly at Virginia Wesleyan.
Jesse Schrader, assistant director of residence life, said in any situation the Residence Life office is flexible and willing to work with students as long as there is communication.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Dean Timothy O’Rourke and Dean of the College Kenneth R. Perry sent an email to the VWC community on Jan. 21. In this email, O’Rourke said students could return to campus on Jan. 22, 2016 because of the weather. He advised students to only travel if the conditions were safel.
“If you are unable to travel because of hazardous conditions and will miss the start of classes, please e-mail your instructors (feel free to copy me on your correspondence),” wrote O’Rourke.
Some Virginia Wesleyan students had already took it upon them to make arrangements to return to campus earlier than the designated date given by Dean O’Rourke.
Schrader said that some students returned to campus as early as Jan. 19. These were mostly students who would have been impacted by it the most. For example, students from Kentucky, New Jersey and Connecticut returned to campus before the storm hit. Although these students were able to return to the residence halls early, they were not able to use their meal plan in the dining halls unless they paid with cash, credit or Marlins Dollars.
“In instances of inclement weather situations, we are more than willing to work with any of our students to get them to campus and ensure their safety,” said Schrader.
Cymone Carr, a junior English major, was not able to return to campus until Jan. 26, the day after classes started, because of the storm. Carr said she was still concerned while she traveled back to Hampton Roads because many of the roads were not in great condition.
Ashli Eberhardt, a junior recreation and leisure major, also did not return to campus until Jan. 26. Eberhardt said she witnessed three feet of snow in her area, and was not able to walk out of her front door. Eberhardt said it took her 30 minutes to an hour to make it out of her driveway.
Dean O’Rourke said that there is a group of about 10 faculty and staff members who meet to determine if classes will go on when there is a form of inclement weather that could possibly impact the campus.
“We get together as we see a storm approaching, and talk about what information we know, usually from different weather sources. However, last time was different because ordinarily when we are involved with a weather event, the question is whether or not to call off classes and activities. Norfolk and Virginia Beach were not involved on campus, this time students off campus were involved because they would have to travel back to campus,” Dean O’Rourke said.
Dean O’Rourke said he asked the faculty to be lenient with students and offer extensions on missed assignments because of students’ late arrivals. He also said the students could come to him with any issues, though there have been no issues and there never are.
Many students were not aware that Dean O’Rourke would be willing to speak with professors to ensure that extensions would be made.
“The professors said the work is due when it is due. They [professors] were very cooperative when I emailed them, but they did not give me any extensions on assignments. The college should have started as a whole together, if they gave extensions to return to campus, they should have just closed campus,” Eberhardt said.
Eberhardt is not the only student who felt that campus should have been closed and that classes should have been postponed.
“I have three classes on Mondays and missing the first day of classes put me behind. I am not surprised that campus was open for classes, but it made me upset because professors and students were still at risk. They [the college] should have at least closed for one day. However, campus was surprisingly clean compared to last year when I was not able to get out of the parking lot,” Carr said.
Carr said she only had one professor who made her stay on schedule and that was the class with the most work. Her other classes gave her more time.
Dean O’Rourke said when a storm in approaching, the dining hall brings in extra food and the college has an extended power supply and an evacuation plan as the last resort in bad circumstances.
“Our advice to students is always the same, don’t risk your life just to come back to campus,” said Dean O’Rourke.