The past two weeks are prime examples of unpredictable Texas weather. Feb. 23 started out cold, but not freezing. Later in the afternoon, however, classes were canceled due to the weather. Then, on Wednesday, Baylor transformed from a winter wonderland (by local standards) to a sunny, relatively mild day. As winter weather looms once again, Baylor weather alerts are going to hit the Web left and right.
Some of the student body were less than pleased with the way alerts were sent. While there may have been some inconsistencies, it is important to understand the Baylor alert process from the first mention of possible bad weather to when we get those alerts to our electronic devices.
First, a core group within Baylor’s Emergency Management team views reports and updates from the National Weather Service. The group’s decision about weather closures is then sent to Dr. David Garland, the interim provost, and Dr. Reagan Ramsower, senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer, who will make the final call for school closures. When the final call is made, Baylor sends out an alert if university hours are altered.
Lori Fogleman, the assistant vice president for media communications, said the goal is for the alert to be out by 5 a.m. the day of the impending weather, but weather is unpredictable, so this is difficult.
In the event classes are canceled or there are closures on campus, the university sends out an email to the entire student body. On days like Feb. 23, an email went out canceling classes from 1:15 p.m. onward, in anticipation of foul weather.
Fogleman said in cases where the weather is hard to evaluate, Baylor will sometimes put information on Twitter or the Baylor homepage to confirm the continuance of classes, but not send out an email.
The alerts sent last week are examples of how the alert system is inconsistent. Wednesday at 5 a.m., Baylor sent a Tweet clarifying that classes would continue as usual.
There was not, however, an email, a post on Facebook or an update on the Baylor website. At this point, the weather was fine. It wasn’t until 8 a.m. that it started to snow. Since it is not standard procedure to send out alerts stating classes will be held as usual, the university only tweeted the information.
Not everyone has Twitter, so only tweeting that classes will continue as usual is not the best approach.
Additionally, if the university has the time to put out an alert on one medium, it would be just as efficient to send the alert through all of the channels. These include the official Baylor website, Twitter, Facebook and Baylor email alerts. Going through one avenue of communication and not another creates confusion. Such confusion can be easily avoided by creating a system in which everyone is notified in every way possible.
However, students should assume classes are not canceled if they have not received an alert. By this point in life, most college kids like to think of themselves as adults. Needing affirmation to go to class is childish. If the university were to employ a procedure of emailing every time class was to continue as planned , where would they draw the line at what defines “iffy?”
Fogleman said the university learns from every bad weather day. The goal of the university on bad weather days is to ensure the safety of students.
On the mornings of Feb. 23-25, the university blocked off the fourth floor of all parking garages. With the exception of Monday, Baylor’s Twitter account did an excellent job of keeping students updated.
The reason for the last-minute closures was dependent on the weather, not procedure. As soon as the top floors started to appear icy, Baylor Police Department closed them off. Students were not alerted to such closures Feb. 23, however, so many students could not find a parking spot in order to get to class.
Emails for each closure would be overboard, but then again, as stated earlier, not everyone has a Twitter. Instead, text alerts for parking garage closures would be the most practical solution. Students are able to sign up for these alerts on their BearWeb accounts under the personal information section.
Despite any inconsistency, Baylor students should use common sense to make it to class and budget extra time on bad weather days. If it looks like snow, leave early.
Although last-minute parking garage closures and seemingly sporadic alerts can be confusing and even annoying, they are carried out for safety measures.
While the Baylor alert system is constantly improving and changing, there does need to be consistency across all platforms to ensure everyone at Baylor receives pertinent information. Students also need to be aware of the procedures so they know what to expect in foul weather.