Weather-related university closings – like weather forecasting itself – is not an exact science, Andrew Hrymak, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), told university Senate Friday.
In the wake of two recent shutdowns, on Feb. 6 at midday and all day on Feb. 12, Hrymak explained that officials are reviewing existing processes to ensure best practices are being followed.
In the event of inclement weather, a core group of decision-makers usually meets at 5:30 a.m. to determine next steps.
On Feb. 6, Facilities Management staff were keeping up with clearing up snow and ice. But by 11 a.m. it became clear that conditions had deteriorated. On Feb. 12, the university closed before the academic day began, as did almost all schools in Southern Ontario.
“Any of these decisions are not made lightly. They affect thousands and tens of thousands,” he said. “Safety is always at the heart of the final decision.”
Freezing rain is one of the most difficult to predict and mitigate against because salt applied to the network of campus roads and 32 kilometres of sidewalks sometimes just washes away, he said.
Extreme cold can also be a factor in closing – a combined temperature and windchill factor of minus-40 Celsius is the threshold before temperature-related closing will take place.
While some on social media also expressed concerns about the safety of driving to and from campus, Hrymak said the reality of how people get to campus is different for everyone, as some drive from 50 kilometres away and some walk from nearby residences. “If people deem their travel to be unsafe, they should not come to campus,” he said.