As snow and ice blanketed Maryville College, preparations were already in order for the tumultuous week ahead. While some students found struggle in the icy walls, others found that doing good on the largest possible scale only meant a 10-minute walk.
Making the decision to cancel/delay classes or move the setting to a virtual environment is a hefty process, with multiple areas of forethought and preparation.
Vice President and Dean of the College Dr. Daniel Klingensmith says that before a storm, he reaches out to colleagues and finds out things like if the Facilities Operations have salted the sidewalks. He also observes the operations that local schools and businesses are doing in preparation for the weather.
Once it’s clear that the school needs to close, Klingensmith calls the director of Marketing and Communications and the director of campus Safety and Security so they can communicate the news to students.
According to Klingensmith, the choices made in these events are difficult ones, as academic content usually gets sacrificed as a result of canceling classes. However, this specific situation was unusual, with the weather bearing inconsistent results in multiple areas that affected employees and residential and commuter students in a multitude of ways. With the ongoing effects of climate change happening across the globe, the abnormal attributes of this weather may be something Maryville College will have to become accustomed to, Klingensmith added.
As a result of the unfortunate timing of the weather, the bursar extended the deadline for students to use book vouchers. Though this additional time was met with positivity by the student population, some feel dismay towards the lack of an extension regarding the add/drop period.
Junior Chapel Shortt believes that it may have been difficult for students to gain a complete perspective of their courses during the week as many did not have the opportunity to acquaint themselves fully to the material.
Shortt added, “I think any learning in that time is so altered that it’s hard to judge how you’ll do in that class. I don’t think you can tell from Zoom or asynchronous learning the type of environment you’ll be in.”
Almost all of Shortt’s courses during the week were asynchronous, which proved to be strenuous along with the uncertainty of campus life. Academically, she added that learning only from a textbook with no instructor was very challenging, and once in-person classes began, many of Shortt’s professors only went over the week’s worth of material.
Klingensmith stated, “We recognize that in some cases the weather did create some difficulties for students in starting their classes, and the Registrar’s office can make exceptions for extenuating circumstances where an add or drop has been submitted late. The newly automated Schedule Adjustment Form helped out tremendously in the circumstances, and we saw record traffic on that form.”
As many students grappled with the circumstances of the weather, others found beauty amidst chaos. Abhilasha “Abhi” Ghosh, a first-year student who moved to Maryville College from India last August, had never experienced snowfall before this frosty week.
Ghosh is an active member of the Bonner Scholars Program at Maryville College, a program dedicated to community outreach and civic engagement. As a requirement of the scholarship, Bonner students must complete 10 hours of community service at a nonprofit organization each week. Due to the inclement weather, the required hours of service were relieved for the week.
However, even in the midst of uncertainty, Gosh and fellow classmates still felt compelled to help in any way they could.
Ghosh, along with fellow Bonner Scholar Aidan Cobianponce and MC student Katelin Walker, decided to give back to the community by taking a 10-minute walk from campus to the First Baptist Church of Maryville and offering volunteer aid at the warming center.
Having centers and areas dedicated specifically to the act of keeping people warm is another new experience for Ghosh living in the U.S, saying, “The sheer fact that you guys have warming shelters for me is like, ‘Woah wait a second, are you guys kidding me right now?’”
Ghosh, along with Cobianponce and Walker, worked together to serve hot meals and converse with those at the center, offering warmth to people in more ways than one. While conversing with visitors of the center, Ghosh and her fellow classmates also collected information on hygiene products to pack into sanitary bags.
Even though it’s a less-than-frequented service site for Bonner Scholars, Gosh believes that it should be spotlighted because “you don’t get more connected to the community than in those places.”