KSUnite: How do classes get canceled?

Anderson Hall pokes through the drab grey sky and freshly fallen snow on Feb. 21, 2013. K-State students experienced the university's first snow day in a few years. (Archive photo by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

What is the process for canceling classes at Kansas State? It is a question many K-State students are probably asking right now. April Mason, provost and senior vice president, helped to shed some light on what can cause the university to cancel all classes for a period of time.

Cancellations usually happen due to severe weather. The last time all classes were canceled at K-State was after a heavy snowfall in 2015. Classes were canceled for two days in a row even though it was sunny the second day.

“The second day, facilities [staffers] were out clearing the parking lots [and] clearing the sidewalks,” Mason said. “It would’ve been dangerous. Once you get seventeen cars in the parking lot, you can’t run your equipment through it. They didn’t want any cars on campus, so we canceled classes the second day.”

However, Mason said the administration tries to avoid canceling all classes whenever possible.

“It causes a lot of problems for faculty and students,” Mason said. “Even when we cancel classes, there’s some people who must come in. Our facilities people have to come in and clear the sidewalks and clear the driveways, and make sure everything’s safe for everyone else.”

Jed Dunham, history researcher, said he was pretty sure the last and only other time classes were cancelled at Kansas State University for a non-weather related event appears to be in 1916, although he said he was not “100 percent certain.” In December of that year, the university cancelled classes so that students could help realign the football field at the present-day location of Memorial Stadium.

Mason said the final call for class cancellation rests on one person: university president Richard Myers.

“The president is responsible for all the workings of Kansas State,” Mason said. “You can’t do it by vote, you can’t do it by popularity. The cabinet helps him, we guide him, we make suggestions to him, but ultimately he makes the decision.”

Due to the problems associated with a total cancellation of all classes at the university, Mason said classes are never canceled for things like afternoon sporting events. Even the total eclipse of the sun on the first day of the fall 2017 semester was not a reason to officially cancel classes at K-State.

“We suspended the attendance policy for that one day, so if students didn’t arrive in class, attendance was not dropped,” Mason said.

To celebrate the diversity and unity of the K-State Family, Mason and the president’s cabinet elected to cancel classes for two hours on Tuesday.

“The blackface, the noose, the rain ponchos, the car, any of the white supremacy posters — it isn’t one incident that we’re responding to,” Mason said. “We’re saying, ‘This is not Kansas State University.’ It’s about a number of issues and about how each one of those issues made people feel unsafe, angry, hurt [or] not part of the community of Manhattan and Kansas State University.”

The purpose of the university-wide cancellation is to encourage people to attend an event promoting diversity, Mason said. Participants will take part in a unity walk to Anderson Hall, the main administrative building, and then participate in a series of speeches and diversity programs.

“Everything will stop [Tuesday] – classes will not be held, offices will not be open,” Mason said. “I hope that students will choose to march in solidarity with students and faculty to say, ‘We are against hate. We want to be a diverse and inclusive community. We want to make a very strong statement.’”

There were various issues with scheduling the event, but the feedback has been mostly positive, Mason said.

Taylor Drummond, senior in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, said the KSUnite rally is a good idea.

“It’s a great event to bring everyone together,” Drummond said.

Other students said they were a little skeptical at first.

“I think it’s strange to cancel class for any reason that is not a holiday or for weather, and I was a little surprised,” Amber Schubert, senior in computer engineering, said. “But this is a serious event, so I would say it’s fine for them to cancel class for it.”

Mason said she hopes the rally will help the students at K-State feel united.

“There are a lot of people putting this together to make this an incredibly meaningful event,” Mason said.