Friday, February 8, 2019

Historic CMU Emergency Shutdowns - Part III

by Bryan Whitledge

Clarke Director Frank Boles
in winter, 2014
Earlier in the week, we posted a piece about historic shutdowns, focusing on the Great Blizzard of '78 and a three-week closure due to a flu epidemic in 1968. In searching for those stories, we missed two major events pointed out to us by Central alumni who remembered their Mother-Nature-induced vacations from classes. So we jumped back in our time machine and revisited the Flood of '86 and the Not-So-Fired-Up Power Outage of '85 in a subsequent blog post. Well, as great as our time machine is (which is really just a collection of digitized newspapers and some super-savvy archivists and librarians who are good searching for information), we've been tipped off by CMU alumni and friends of the Clarke who remember other major weather events that caused trouble for the CMU campus. Thanks to all who have brought these to our attention. With that, we bring you Part III of emergency campus shutdowns. The only thing that seems to make the recent ice storm bearable is reading about the miserable weather suffered by others who have walked the grounds of the CMU campus over the years.

First off is a terrible winter storm that may or may not have caused cancellations at CMU. On Tuesday and Wednesday, January 26 and 27, 1971, a winter storm slammed the Midwest and dozens of schools and businesses closed that day. The Michigan Daily at the University of Michigan reported on it; the Farwell News from of a town just a few miles north of Mt. Pleasant reported on it. And the CM Life reported on it on January 27: "The extremely cold winds and snow closed schools and businesses all over the state, and more bad weather is in store all day today." The blurb was part of a caption featuring an image of a young woman bundled up in a very fluffy, shaggy coat (straight out of 1971 for those who enjoy reminiscing about fashions of the past). It's clear that the weather was awful. But despite that, it seems that Central students trudged through the snow and faced the winds to head to class with no closures or cancellations mentioned in the CM Life.

Spectators at the Polar Plunge supporting Special Olympics, February 2008

The second set of campus closures to mention came more recently, in January and February of 2008. In March that year, the CM Life reported on Academic Senate discussions about adopting a formal "snow day" policy. As the reporter pointed out in the first sentence, that semester was unusual in that there were five days of cancelled classes. Because of the extreme circumstances, the majority of senators did not believe a formal policy was necessary. As one senator was quoted: "I think, while it certainly did impact this semester, time spent on a policy for something that may not happen again for 20 years would be a waste of time." Flash forward 11 years, to 2019 -- and it looks like we are nine years ahead of schedule. In just two weeks, snow, ice, bitter cold, and a polar vortex have forced CMU to cancel or delay classes five times.

As Benjamin Franklin and other great thinkers have said, death and taxes are the only certainties in life. But it seems that horrible weather in Michigan leading to campus shutdowns at CMU every few years could be added to that list.