Office of the President

January 23, 2012

The Storm of 2012

University of Washington

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

The weather last week made a normally challenging quarter even harder. Losing three days from a total of 47 instructional days in the quarter has a real impact. Unlike K–12 schools, we do not have the luxury of adding make-up days at the end of the quarter. We know there is an effect upon all of our programs, especially our instructional ones, and we understand those lost days will be difficult to recover. We know that some faculty have been placing lecture PowerPoint presentations or classnotes on websites and/or engaging in online discussions with students (at least during times that power was available). More than a few mentoring sessions have happened over the phone or on Skype. We appreciate your dedication, especially under tough conditions, and are confident you will all continue to find creative ways to minimize the impact on student learning. We will be talking with students and instructors in the days ahead to assess which efforts worked best so that we can disseminate and facilitate best practices along these lines in the future.

Deciding to suspend operations is, of course, a decision not taken lightly. We weigh the effect upon the academic program against the risk to public safety of traveling in dangerous weather conditions, and as you might expect, we come down on the side of safety. Many of you live in close proximity and walk to and from your classes and places of work. Many commute from long distances. We gather as much information as we can about road conditions, public transportation capabilities, weather forecasts, as well as the condition of our campuses before arriving at a decision to suspend activities. As each day went by, we wanted not to have to suspend, but the weather just did not cooperate. Our local topography makes the challenge even harder. People who grew up in winter climes in the Midwest, for instance, gain a fuller appreciation of our hills and valleys, and how even relatively small amounts of snow and ice can turn a winter wonderland into a winter nightmare.

Many in jobs that are considered “essential” made their way into work to keep the University functional. These include all the staff in our medical centers, which do not have the ability to pause for the weather, to staff in our residence halls who regardless of the weather must provide meals for our 6,000 students living there, to those in our facilities divisions who kept the power on and who worked to near-exhaustion to get the campuses ready for our return. To all of them and many others who braved the weather, thank you for your service.

Let’s hope our adventure with nature this winter is over, and we’ve seen the last of disruptive storms. A little meteorological calm in our lives would be wonderful.


President Michael Young's Signature Image of Ana Mari Cauce's signature
Michael K. Young Ana Mari Cauce
President Provost & Executive Vice President