Blanketed in a thick layer of snow, the streets and sidewalks of the Elm City were quiet Wednesday. The storefronts of retailers such as Willoughby’s, Tyco and Urban Outfitters were dark long before their usual closing times. City Hall announced that all city offices, agencies and libraries would close at 2 p.m. By the end of the night, about eight inches had fallen on New Haven.
And at Yale, the inclement weather brought a few consequences as well — but just a few. A handful of professors canceled their classes and sections, and Undergraduate Career Services canceled its afternoon events. Door-to-door shuttle service ended at 9:30 p.m., and fixed Blue and Orange shuttle routes, which usually run 24 hours a day, stopped running, at 10 p.m.
Still, most classes met as usual, and students donned hats and coats to trek up Science Hill or to William L. Harkness Hall. Yale hasn’t called a snow day in 30 years, and for the most part, Wednesday was just another day.
Though Yale staff lose a day of vacation if they cannot make it to work in bad weather, University President Richard Levin said Wednesday that Yale faculty do not have allotted vacations and may cancel classes without consequences to themselves. Still, he said, faculty are expected to hold class or reschedule, regardless of the weather.
Only the university secretary — currently, Linda Lorimer — can call a snow day, though it has traditionally been a symbolic power. According to the University’s official weather policy, Yale — as a research university with a large residential community — has too many necessary operations to ever close down entirely.
For students like Brian Earp ’10, a snow day at Yale is unimaginable.
“Yale isn’t like five students in a small schoolhouse,” Earp said. “It’s really like a small town, with thousands of students. Should we shut off the lights and stop eating when it snows? No!”
English professor Leslie Brisman said he has never canceled one class — regardless of weather conditions — in his 41 years of teaching at Yale. Only once has he canceled class, he said, and it “doesn’t count”: In February 1978, he drove 4½ hours from Poughkeepsie, NY, only to find that the University had canceled all classes.
“I don’t think anything warrants the cancellation of classes,” he said. “Semesters are ridiculously short as it is. Every day counts.”
Brisman said it is a professor’s responsibility to reschedule or find a substitute for a class.
Francoise Schneider, a senior lector in French, said she had to turn to the latter option as a precaution for her Wednesday French class, thinking the early morning blizzards and the distance from her home to campus would too challenging. In hindsight, she said, she could have held class because conditions were not as bad as she had expected.
History professor Stuart Schwartz, who teaches “History of Brazil,” said Wednesday marked the first time he had to cancel class in his 13 years at Yale, because the blizzard and personal circumstances prevented him from getting to New Haven. But he added that he would make up the missed class as soon as possible.
Of 20 students interviewed, only two said one of their classes had been canceled. One of them, Texas-native Travis Foxhall ’13, who is taking Schwartz’ course, said he thinks a campus-wide cancellation of classes would clash with Yale’s academic philosophy. And although he said he enjoys Schwartz’ class, he was excited to spend the snow day outside.
Jim Liu ’12 said he received an e-mail from his CHEM 115 professor saying that his class would not be canceled, and Katherine Urban-Mead ’13 said her E&EB 122 teaching assistant promised her section that classes would be canceled — then reneged.
Eighteen of the 20 students said they think classes should only be canceled if conditions outside are dangerous or if professors deem it necessary to reschedule.
“You’re not going to die if you walk in this weather,” Danie Monahan ’12aid. “The only reason Yale should have a snow day is if it’s risky to go outside.”