With the change of seasons, here is a Q&A about Longwood’s inclement weather policy, including information on some new steps we’ll be taking this year to avoid disrupting the work of the university, to ensure safety, and to communicate clearly with the campus community.
WHO DECIDES WHETHER TO CLOSE THE UNIVERSITY, AND HOW IS IT COMMUNICATED?
The decision whether to close the university is made by senior administrators at the campus-level, not by the Commonwealth or anyone else. We do not follow the lead of other universities or local schools. Our resources, culture and circumstances are our own—as a residential college but with a workforce spread over a comparatively large region of the Commonwealth that experiences wide variations in weather and road conditions.
If the university will close early, or the following day, there will be an announcement on the web site along with a campus-wide email and text sent via the e2Campus system. Longwood’s marketing and communications office will notify media outlets, including TV and radio stations, across the region, including Lynchburg, Charlottesville and Richmond. If the university does need to close due to inclement weather, this year we will redouble our effort to announce such decisions as soon as possible.
WHAT IS THE STANDARD FOR DECIDING TO CLOSE THE UNIVERSITY?
There is no absolute rule, but the default assumption is always that we will remain open through inclement weather. We are a residential institution, and winter weather is a fact of life. Most importantly, most of our students live on or near campus, and any disruption in the academic calendar should be only a last resort. We will close only if conditions are severe, and there should be no assumption that snow in and of itself will be a cause for the university to close.
We recognize that many of our faculty and staff live in rural areas and at some distance from Farmville. If we feel there is a broad public safety concern, we will cancel classes and close the university to non-essential workers. However, that decision must reflect an overall judgment, not the circumstances of every individual employee.
WHAT DO STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW?
Unless you get official notification by text or email, the university is open and classes will take place. Regardless of whether classes are cancelled, whenever there is inclement weather it is your responsibility to check for communications (via email, Canvas or other means) from faculty, who may adjust assignments (including adding material if class cannot meet).
If the university does close, essential personnel will report to work and get the campus running as fully as possible. Longwood’s dining halls will remain open even if the university is formally closed. In the past, we have almost always been able to keep open the recreation center and library open as well. This year, we will make additional efforts to ensure those resources and others are kept open and to notify the community of their hours of availability via email and relevant web sites (for instance, http://www.longwood.edu/Recreation/)/ . Faculty may make use of the open library to assign group projects or review sessions even if classes are cancelled – so again, students should check for communications from their instructors.
I’M A STUDENT WHO LIVES AWAY FROM CAMPUS. THE UNIVERSITY IS OPEN BUT I DO NOT FEEL I CAN GET THERE SAFELY. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If you do not believe you can get safely to campus, you remain in a safe place and follow any specific guidance for such situations provided by your instructors. Otherwise, communicate with them as soon as possible to notify them of your situation.
I’M AN EMPLOYEE AND DO NOT BELIEVE I CAN DRIVE SAFELY TO CAMPUS. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS WHEN THE UNIVERSITY REMAINS OPEN?
With respect to non-essential staff, Longwood managers are directed to make reasonable accommodation for employees to adjust their schedules, allowing them to arrive late or depart early in order not to drive in the dark, or to telecommute if appropriate.
For those who do not believe they can safely commute at all due to inclement weather on a day when the university is open, managers will allow non-essential employees to take “unscheduled leave.” With unscheduled leave, employees can make a last-minute decision to take compensatory, vacation or other leave without the usual requirements of advance notification.
In short, Longwood will make reasonable efforts to accommodate and be flexible regarding individual circumstances. However, those who do not live near campus should understand that they may be required on occasion to use a vacation a day if they cannot come to work.