Classes Continue Virtually as Campus Closes: Are Snow Days Really a Thing of the Past?

by Kaylin Flam & Nicole Fitzsimmons, Contributor & News Editor

Manhattan College students faced two snow days in a row during the week of Feb. 1, and two others during the week of Feb. 15. This prompts the question: Will snow days become more common at MC due to the option of remote learning?

The process of calling a snow day begins the night before the anticipation of a storm. Campus Safety and Provost Steven Schreiner keep a close look on the conditions of the roads and the ice levels to see if students, especially commuters and faculty, can make it safely to class.

“There’s no desire on my part to close the campus for any reason, right, the physical campus. [My desire] is to keep it open and keep people coming in,” Provost Schreiner said. “We have a large commuter population as well, and they utilize the facilities on campus. You know, that’s one of the reasons the library stays up, it’s not just for residents.”

Yet, the option to teach virtually does offer professors an opportunity to keep their classes on track during days that leave students snowed in. Emmett Ryan, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, states that this helps students stay ahead, even on days that the classes would usually have been cancelled. 

“The online earning has made it less disruptive to stay on track with the schedule,” Ryan said. “I feel like it keeps everybody safe, and that they can stay at home and kind of not miss a beat when it comes to keeping up with the course.” 

Especially for classes that are half in person and half virtual, Ryan emphasizes that a sense of consistency is established on days where the whole class can be remote on snow days. 

“It makes the experience more consistent when it’s not hybrid. So if we’re all online, then we’re all learning in the same way, as opposed to being in the classroom where half of the students are online, and half are in the classroom. So there’s a shift, I guess, in the dynamic of the class a little bit, and, I’m not sure if it makes it better or worse, it just makes it different for that particular thing” Ryan said. 

Although Ryan feels that teaching virtually on snow days helps classes stay on track, he does miss the traditional snow day.

“Sometimes that time away from work is important to, you know, regenerating ideas and to refresh yourself and kind of think and have some space to reflect on what you’re doing,” he said.

Increasing remote classes for on-campus and commuter students may have made it harder for them to stay focused and present in their learning. The switch in learning modes during these snow days can also be hard for students, especially ones that utilize campus spaces such as the Kelly Commons and the O’Malley Library, since it could be harder to make it to campus. 

International studies and political science major Mary Camaj is a commuter student who feels that the nostalgic traditional snow day might be necessary for students who utilize these spaces to take classes.

“Even while it’s snowing, it can sometimes be hard to focus on remote classes, especially if you have other duties because of the snow or if you have your house filled with family members,” Camaj said. “I do feel that at times it is a bit more difficult to focus on class remotely, especially if the class is hybrid and there are also in-person students. So, I make the conscious effort not to get distracted.” 

Provost Schreiner states that when things begin to return to normalcy, he is not against the idea of considering allowing traditional snow days to return.

“Next fall, if we’re fully in-person, I don’t know that there’s a need to start saying we’re going to be remote or how much of a hardship it would be on faculty and students to suggest we’re going to,” he said, “Because right now, faculty have planned to be remote if they’re remote. So, you know, the plan and everything is set up for that. Next fall, it might not be that way. So I want to be careful about not tripping up the system.”

Despite COVID-19 making things mostly unpredictable, administration believes that the best way for the college to function is in-person, where students can interactively learn with each other, the campus resources and faculty. The ability to do this, however, is unknown. With the COVID-19 vaccines beginning to roll out, the status is still unpredictable. 

“Our goal is to make sure students make progress towards the degree. Remember, there’s a pandemic going on. This is a really serious thing, people are really compromised by not just being sick but the risk of it, and they can’t come in here. And so, we have to help them through this.”

With classes possibly being in-person next semester, the virtual snow day might not be as accessible. Yet, contacting professors and keeping up with work will still be available, since remote learning has become so normal to us.

“That’s sort of the COVID training I’m under, it’s hard to plan ahead with COVID, so we try to keep our options open,” Provost Schreiner said. “But if we’re fully in person, I don’t know that we would be calling and saying that everyone’s gonna be remote that day. It may be again, I think naturally, Some of that stuff is gonna be happening because it’s ubiquitous now. Even under snowy conditions, we’ll be doing more remote in my prediction, just with the day to day things.” 

The question of snow days being a thing of the past is still in question, yet the conditions of next fall can give us a better look into what learning might look like on these days