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Students struggle with CUNY snow day policy

Many students looked out the window and called it a day, but Catherine Kim was determined to stay.

After her first class ended at 10:15 a.m., the senior hiked through the puddles of snow to the music library to get work done before her 5 p.m. class.

Snow, sleet and hail continued pour. She proceeded to check her email and the Queens College website every hour or so, to see whether or not classes were canceled only to be kept waiting until the last minutes.

Six hours and 45 minutes later, it was time start her lonely journey to Queens Hall. She checked one last time for email updates but received nothing.

“From the music library the snow looked really pretty, but, as I was walking to Queens Hall, I asked myself, ‘why did I stay?’ because no one was on campus,” Kim said. “I was the only one walking to Queens Hall.”

Several students walking out of Queens Hall told her that the school was closed but she had to confirm for herself. She checked again and received a class canceling email from her professor at 4:50 p.m. She then received an email from QC at 5:11 p.m. stating that classes after 5 p.m. were canceled.

QC released the email update 11 minutes after the appointed time of the school closing. However, Facebook and Twitter notifications were sent out at 4:25 p.m., which informed them earlier than the email.

Kim does not actively use Facebook or Twitter on a daily basis and she thought the emails would have come in a timelier fashion.

“I was upset but I did get a lot of work done. I wasn’t angry,” Kim said. “I think I was more upset because they should have canceled the whole day. I actually had a nice commute. My buses connected very well but I know everyone else had horror stories.

The Facebook and Twitter updates not only consisted of appreciative comments from students, but also dismaying and sarcastic remarks from students who expressed their dissatisfaction of the communication system.

CUNY’s central office is in close contact with the New York City Office of Emergency Management which aids CUNY to determine whether the entire university system-wide will remain open or close in the events of severe weather conditions or emergencies. At each individual colleges of CUNY, campus-specific decisions are made by the college leadership in consultation with CUNY on a case by case basis, Leanna Yip, Executive Director of the Office of Communications, said.

“When the decision is made, it is communicated immediately to all students, staff and faculty through a variety of different channels,” Yip said.

The QC website features a scrolling banner on the home page of the site, as well as a headline under the News and Announcements section. Detailed information is posted on the college’s Emergency Preparedness Page. Notifications are posted on the college’s Facebook page and sent out on Twitter. Emails are sent to all students, staff and faculty, Yip said.

Yip encourages the college community to subscribe to CUNY Alert, the university’s emergency notification system that provides advice and information of an emergency via text, email, or voice message, “which is the most efficient means of disseminating critical information in the event of an emergency.”

Students can subscribe to CUNY Alert through CUNY First.

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