Winter weather can cause class confusion

Every spring semester students trek long distances through inches of snow for a class that ends up being cancelled at the last minute.  Sometimes students watch the weather on the local news and assume and plan that classes will be cancelled only to find out that their assumption of a “day off” was incorrect.  While there is a science to following and predicting the weather, there is no such system for predicting whether or not the university will be closed.

The ultimate decision of whether or not Northern Kentucky University’s classes will be held falls into the hands of its president, James Votruba. However, the president considers a recommendation from Vice President for Administration and Finance Kenneth H. Ramey, who monitors local weather reports and road conditions.

“Ultimately, the decision comes down to the safety of the students and faculty,” said Votruba.  “Students’ safety is the most important thing.”

Votruba would consider cancelling classes or closing the university altogether for reasons including that campus facilities have been damaged and have been determined to be unsafe for students and faculty, essential utilities such as electricity and heat have been interrupted, or that the travel conditions to campus are proven to be extremely hazardous.

“Coming from Michigan, I was shocked that two inches of snow would close down the university, but then I realized that we had the equipment to handle the snow in Michigan,” said Votruba. “We don’t have the equipment here. There is no science to the decision.  What causes one university to close in one area is different than other universities in other areas.”

Ramey, along with the Department of Public Safety, keeps track of the weather patterns and tries to make estimations of what the weather is likely to do.  If there is so much snow falling that work crews cannot keep up with snow removal then the university is forced to make a decision.

“There was one winter storm I remember that all the weather stations said was going to move north and miss the university so we decided not to cancel the night classes,” said Votruba.  “Low and behold, 6:30 comes around and it starts snowing.  By the time night classes were over, students were having to ice skate to their cars.”

As many residents of the tri-state know, predicting the weather in the area is never an easy task. Many people remember when a meteorologist predicted nothing but a light dusting and found them trapped in their house the next morning. Others remember being told that the area would be receiving several inches of snow and find that the winter storm’s path had changed.

It is hard to predict exactly what this winter has in store for us this semester but there are several things you can do to keep yourself in the know about winter weather and whether you will have classes or not on a snowy day.

The decision to cancel classes or the university must be made by 6:00 a.m. during the week and by 3:00 p.m. for night classes. Votruba will then report this decision to radio and television stations in the area, including WNKU (89.7 FM).  Class or university cancellations will also be posted on the home page.

Students can also sign up for Norse Alert to be informed of class cancellations or university closings due to weather or other threats that could arise. Norse Alert will call and send a text message to students’ phones informing them of cancellations.  To sign up for Norse Alert visit

Whether we miss classes because of weather this semester or not, the decision is based entirely around the safety of the students and faculty.

“As a rule of thumb, we tend to rule on the side of safety,” said Votruba.

Story by Matthew Brewer