By Ashley Perham
Tuesday, Jan. 16, marked the first time Volunteer State Community College was ever closed on the first day of the semester, said Dr. Jerry Faulkner, president of the college.
All campuses were closed Tuesday and Wednesday and had a delayed opening Thursday morning due to snow and ice.
If the college misses more days this semester, a discussion about how to ensure that faculty have sufficient time to cover their material may be necessary, said Faulkner.
One year, the college missed four days in February due to an ice storm, he said.
“That year that we missed four days, we did agree that if we missed any more days, we would convene a meeting and try to understand how we could make those days up,” he said.
Possible ideas of how to make up the classes included shortening or eliminating spring break or compressing the final exam schedule, he said.
The decision to open or close the campuses falls solely on Faulkner.
“My first consideration certainly is the safety of our students, staff, and faculty,” he said.
He gets weather reports from a variety of sources and even drives around himself to experience the road conditions, he said.
“I consult with our chief of police because our service area is quite large, and I’m here on almost the western edge of it, and we have lots of counties on the eastern edge where the weather is very different,” Faulkner said.
The chief of police has contacts with other law enforcement agencies in other counties in the service area, he said. Faulkner also talks with employees in Livingston and Cookeville who observe the road conditions there.
Although he texts with some of the directors of the local public school systems, the decision to open or close campus is made independently of these systems, Faulkner said. The public schools have to take into account that they have school busses on the roads while Vol State does not.
The physical plant team at Vol State is responsible for the roads and sidewalks on the Gallatin campus, Fualkner said. The plant team also travels to Springfield to help de-ice the roads on that campus.
Members of the team actually came to campus while it was closed and prepared the sidewalks and parking lots for the eventual opening on Thursday, said Faulkner.
“They did an outstanding job,” he said.
The City of Livingston helps clear roads at the Livingston campus, and the college has a contract with a company that helps clear roads at the Cookeville campus.
Vol State does have equipment such as snowplows to help clear the campus roads.
The decision to finally open Vol State on Thursday was met with some negative reactions on social media.
“No one will make it! People are risking their lives,” commented Sami Madanat on Facebook.
Some commented that the conditions in their area were too dangerous for them to drive.
“I live in Murfreesboro and my car has no power steering and on 2 spares.. it’s super dangerous for me to even think about driving out there today,” wrote Mercedes Leigh.
“My car slid off the road, this is really disappointing. I’m going to miss my very first class, ever,” said Lacey Broadway.
Students have the right to use their discretion when deciding whether to drive to campus in unsafe conditions, according to the Vol State snow policy and social media posts.