I am certain that we can all agree that the safety of our students, faculty, and staff must be our highest priority. As the spring semester approaches, the possibility of adverse weather affecting our students’ ability to get to campus to attend classes becomes a very real possibility. Over the last couple of years, our campus has been rocked by traffic fatalities of students trying to return to campus. Clearly, we need to do everything possible to minimize the probability of these events. Student Affairs has worked to assure university housing and Greek houses are open earlier, thus widening the window of time when students can return to campus. The University has also partnered with Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the State Patrol to improve highway safety. Messages are going out to our students to exercise caution when returning to campus.
For those of us in academic areas, we can contribute to students’ safety by providing flexibility in class attendance policies when adverse weather prevails. If classes are held during or immediately following adverse weather, students should not be penalized for failing to attend. Course instructors can also use their discretion to offer students an alternative learning option that does not require travel to campus and extending deadlines on assignments or activities that require in-person participation. Similarly, the safety of our faculty is paramount. If an instructor feels he/she cannot reach campus without putting him/herself in harm’s way, he/she can exercise alternative approaches to cover course meetings (e.g., online delivery of course material, have someone able to get to campus cover the course). Please consult with your department chair to determine the best course of action.
A formal policy is being reviewed by Faculty Senate to govern these circumstances, but until it is formally passed, I ask that you exercise flexibility and err on the side of caution to assure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. Thank you for your assistance.
Regards, Dan Bernardo Provost and Executive Vice President