A Professor’s thoughts on the subject
By Tava Hoag
If you’re anything like myself, then at first you loved the snow days. It was a nice break during the week to get some more sleep or catch-up on your favorite Netflix shows. Then after hours of shoveling, 4 missed class days, and a delayed opening– it started to become annoying. Professors have to keep updating and changing the syllabus, students have to complete extra work and commuters have lost valuable parking spaces due to the excessive buildup of snow. It just won’t stop. I’m ready for it to be spring, but it looks like that won’t be happening for a while with more snow looming on the horizon.
Faculty and students alike are becoming concerned with missing so many classes. In fact, a graduate course taught by Ben Railton has not had the chance to meet since the start of the semester due almost entirely to the weather.
Find out about his thoughts and actions because of this complication in the interview below.
TAVA: “How many classes have you and your students missed due to the snow?”
BEN: “My grad class didn’t meet for the first four weeks of the semester, due to a combination of the MLK holiday and (especially) the snow days.”
TAVA: “Can you recover? And if so, how?”
BEN: “We can, but it’s going to be a constant series of adjustments. For example, we met last (Tuesday), even though it’s a M evening class–this meant scrambling to find a room and that not all of the students could be there, but I felt we needed to meet for the first time this week, especially with the Presidents’ Day holiday canceling another class.”
TAVA: “Do you feel that students are getting what they paid for with the snow days?”
BEN: “That’s a tricky question. I feel that students pay for the course and semester overall, and that there are ways to deliver on those things differently depending on circumstances and how we respond to them. But it’s not the ideal version, that’s for sure.”
TAVA: “What are some, if any frustrations that you have about the snow and cancelations?”
BEN: “Lots, but I would focus from my perspective on the lack of continuity or rhythm in a course. Especially for one that meets once a week, it’s really important to try to create that continuity and rhythm, so we can move through our readings, conversations, and papers as successfully as possible. In this case, we’ve started on exactly the opposite note.”
TAVA: “Will you have time to cover all of the material in the books that students purchased?”
BEN: “I fully intend to do so, but it will take some navigation and adjustments to be sure.”
TAVA: “Did you agree with the university not canceling or delaying, even though Fitchburg Public delayed?”
BEN: “I don’t know that I’m in a position to make that call–I understand both sides (wanting not to cancel any more classes; worrying about the roads/commute), and believe that FSU is trying its best to negotiate those factors.”
Many people have been wondering about a possible cancellation of spring break or even an extension to classes in May, but Railton doesn’t believe that’s even a possibility.
TAVA: “If there are any more snow days or missed classes is there anything the university will do to extend the semester? Like cancel spring break? Or add a week of classes in May?”
BEN: “I’ve never heard of any such responses, and I don’t believe they’re really possible given lots of other factors (such as graduation at the end of the semester).”
Everyone has a guilty pleasure and some of us may not want to admit it, but many of us secretly look forward to snow days. Some students may enjoy them more than professors do and that is the case with Railton.
TAVA: “Do you secretly enjoy the snow days?”
BEN: “I don’t! What I always say to students is that I was a student once and remember the appeal of missing class sometimes–but that they wouldn’t want to have a professor who didn’t want to be there, y’know?”
In terms of stopping the snow there’s nothing we can do. Us Mass-holes are tough and we will continue to trudge through the slush and drive on icy roads to make the most out of this semester. It’s comforting to know that there are professors here, like Ben Railton, who will do whatever it takes to make sure it all works out.