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The Carletonian

CSA resolution disregarded, classes held despite polar vortex

<st week of January brought incredibly cold temperatures to Minnesota and much of the Midwest. Wind chill values dropped below -50 degrees in the Northfield area on Wednesday, January 30th. Prior to the forecasted cold wave, Carleton students raised concerns about the hazardous conditions and the safety issues that the extreme temperatures could pose. Ultimately, despite these student initiatives, the administration decided not to cancel classes during the polar vortex.

The Carleton Student Association (CSA) Senate served as a primary platform for students’ discussion of their concerns. Significant discussion also took place on Carleton Facebook pages. A petition started by Max Vale ’22 circulated on Facebook, urging the administration to cancel classes on Wednesday, January 30, forecasted to be the coldest day that week. As the issue of the impending cold wave became increasingly prevalent on social media, CSA senators took notice of the voices of students and started to put together a plan of action.

CSA President Apoorva Handigol ’19 credits Class of 2022 Representative Oswaldo Cota with first posing the idea of a plan of action to the CSA Senate in response to the Facebook petition. The consensus among senators was that Carleton should cancel everything on Wednesday for the safety of students, staff and faculty. From there, senators went about drafting a resolution to be passed on Monday, January 28 during its weekly meeting.

The resolution “CSA Resolution – Canceling Classes on Wednesday, January 30, 2019” was passed that Monday evening and subsequently forwarded to the Tuesday Group, the Director of Human Resources, and the Director of Facilities and Capital Planning.
According to Handigol, as support continued to increase across social media and some professors chose to cancel their Wednesday classes or hold them remotely, the Senate was under the impression that the resolution would work.

While other small residential colleges in the region, including Macalester, Gustavus Adolphus and Grinnell, decided to cancel classes, President Steven Poskanzer announced in a January 29 email that the Tuesday Group had decided to remain open on Wednesday.


In the email, Poskanzer said that the Tuesday Group tried to “make the choice that is right for Carleton” and that their approach “is different from what we’ve done in the past,” although no context was provided for similar situations in the past.
“As you might expect, there were varied and intense views on these matters,” Poskanzer added.

Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston, a member of the Tuesday Group, did not respond to requests to comment.

Students, faculty and staff were ultimately left to decide how to handle their own safety. On Tuesday, January 29, Handigol responded to the administration’s decision with an all-campus email, giving students advice on how to take care of themselves and fellow students who might not have access to clothes warm enough for the bitter cold.

“We just felt that there were no resources given or allocated to support students who don’t have enough warm clothing,” they said. According to Handigol, the Office of Intercultural and International Life (OIIL) usually has a supply of clothing available, but had run out.

From Handigol’s perspective, the impact of the extreme weather on faculty and staff, along with the fact that many faculty decided not to hold class, “shows that classes should’ve been canceled,” they said.

Handigol plans to pursue this question with the administration. “My next steps are—I meet with Dean Livingston every other week—asking her exactly why this happened and what will happen next time there’s a polar vortex,” they said.

Handigol added that they would also like to see more communication from the administration on how staff are treated in situations like these.

“The main thing is we don’t know why the college chose this,” Handigol said.

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