Recent campus closures force changes in class syllabi

Julia Brouillette

Classes on Jan. 24 were canceled the night before as a result of ice storms that accompanied a Central Texas cold front. On Tuesday, the University announced a delay at 8:20 a.m. and ultimately decided to close for the day around 11:30 a.m. University officials look to local meteorologists — who analyze regional forecast information — when making decisions about weather-related closures. 

Faculty Council chairwoman Hillary Hart said the University does not reschedule classes after closures; the decision lies solely with individual instructors.

“[Professors] don’t get any help, it’s not like the University’s going to tack on another day at the end of the semester,” Hart said.

Hart said instructors have to decide for themselves how to make up classwork.

“We are required to have a certain number of days of instruction, and if the weather is bad and the University has to close, everybody’s excused and that day just doesn’t count,” Hart said. “We have to just make it up in our classes as we go.”

Labs typically begin in the second or third week of the semester, so professors were more likely affected by Tuesday’s closure, according to Hart.

“In big labs with several sections spread throughout the week, if even one day is missing, that really impacts things,” Hart said. “You can’t have just one set of students not learning something that everybody else is.”

Biology senior lecturer Ruth Buskirk said she missed three classes on Jan. 24 and one class Tuesday.

“I’ll probably have to cut a little bit from the syllabus,” Buskirk said. “But I also did lengthen one of my homework assignments that I had already assigned. … I lengthened that to compensate a bit.”

Buskirk said she is still working to compress her curriculum in a way that will be most beneficial to students in each of her eight labs.

“It’s too early in the semester to know [how students will be affected],” Buskirk said.

Senior lecturer Raymond Neubauer, who teaches an introductory biology course with eight lab sections, said he does not think the closures will cause significant problems for any of his students.

“We had to reschedule things, bump things forward and in one case double up on quizzes that we had in discussion so that everybody had the same number of points available to them,” Neubauer said. “It does make everything a little bit more crowded, but I think we can all adjust to it.”

Undeclared freshman Michaela Jenkins said she enjoyed the first day off, but thought the second class cancellation was an unwelcome disruption.

“I was happy when it happened Friday, but slightly irritated on Tuesday,” Jenkins said. “I have a test coming up and I knew my professor wasn’t going to push it back.”