By Stephen Case – firstname.lastname@example.org – Staff Writer
As winter storm Pax brought snow and ice across the South, it caused unwanted difficulties for students and teachers at UNC Asheville.
“It’s just a part of learning how to be flexible in life in general,” said Katherine Zubko, an assistant professor of religious studies at UNCA. “This is going to happen out in the work world, too.”
According to UNCA’s atmospheric science department, the campus received 6.5 inches of snow from the storm. The city of Asheville became a microcosm of what most of the South endured.
During the week of Feb. 10-14, UNCA canceled four nights and three days of classes, essentially costing students and faculty an entire week’s worth of classes.
“A group of staff members, including the director of public safety, director of emergency management, director of facilities and the assistant provost, discuss campus conditions, area road conditions and forecasts from the National Weather Service to develop a recommendation by the director of public safety to me,” said Jane Fernandes, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs.
Teachers such as Erica Locklear, associate professor of literature and language, adapted to the conditions by revising their syllabi.
“There is a plan A, which you hope will happen, which is already on the syllabus,” Locklear said. “Then you come up with a late-start plan, which is another contingency plan, but none of that happened because classes were all canceled.”
Locklear and Zubko said they used Moodle and communicated through email to help facilitate the workload and prevent students from having too much to do upon returning.
Abram Benz, a 22-year-old senior sociology student, said he views that type of learning as busy work.
Benz said replying to discussion forums on Moodle forced him to rely on other classmates to respond, which did not necessarily fit with his schedule or availability.
Zubko said she isn’t a fan of online learning, but understands alternatives must be put in place for circumstances like this.
“Class time is really important,” Zubko said. “That’s why I’m not a fan of online courses in general. I think something happens in the classroom that you can’t get any other way.”
Fernandes said commencement ceremonies are not in jeopardy of being pushed back, nor are extra days being added onto this semester.
“Scheduling, planning and reservations for major events like commencement begin more than a year in advance,” Fernandes said. “Commencement speakers, guests, families, graduates and vendors reserve the commencement date as early as the previous summer.”
With Benz graduating in May, he said he wouldn’t mind pushing commencement back a few days if there were already a plan in place for such an event like Pax, but to randomly spring it on graduating students now would be unfair.
“Missing three days wouldn’t really be an issue, but if it had been more than a month or something, they may want to consider it,” Benz said. “I’m not necessarily trying to get out of here as soon as possible, but it would suck to have that sprung on us.”
Benz said UNCA did a good job in the handling of all the cancellations, but he could not say the same for the city of Asheville.
According to Benz, he and his girlfriend wrecked their car on W.T. Weaver Boulevard after leaving Highsmith where he works in the game room, when he slid on a patch of black ice. He saw other cars sliding around as well.
He said police officers told him the city does not salt the roads until there are incidents like this, because it is not cost-effective.
Caveh Davari, and 18-year-old freshmen music technology student, said it was nice to get a mini-break, but the trade-off comes when you have to make up work that is missed.
“Adding days on to the year, that wouldn’t be too bad,” Davari said. “But at the same time, let’s be honest, we all want to miss some class.”