Evening classes cancelled

Matt Spector

Northwestern canceled all evening classes Wednesday on its Evanston and Chicago campuses, marking the first time NU has canceled academic year classes in 29 years. The University also announced early closings of the University Library and the Science and Technology Library on Wednesday.

All classes after 6 p.m. were canceled due to a winter storm watch issued by The National Weather service, which warned of “hazardous weather conditions” in the Chicago area until 10 p.m. Wednesday. Students were alerted of the closing via the university’s newly-implemented emergency notification system. The announcement marked the first “live” use of the system, which was tested Jan. 25. Students were informed of class closings through text messages, phone recordings, bulk email and varying combinations of media.

“Particularly for the evening classes in the School of Continuing Studies, a lot of those are driving a fair distance in the Chicago metropolitan area,” said Vice President for University Relations, Al Cubbage. “As a matter of safety concerns, we decided to cancel classes.”

He said the decision was made about 3 p.m. after consulting upper levels of the administration, including Provost Daniel Linzer, Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Eugene Sunshine and the deans of NU’s schools.

According to university archives, NU has not closed classes during the academic year since 2001. Summer school classes were canceled in 2001 due to a power outage on campus.

In addition to the students’ reprieve from evening classes, the university notified employees that those “who wish to leave work early today because of the weather may do so at the discretion of their supervisors.” The online message stated that time taken off would be considered part of an employee’s annual leave time.

The university began talking about creating a school-wide system shortly after the Virgina Tech shootings in April 2007. During Fall Quarter, the Registrar required NU students to provide an emergency notification number in order to register for Winter Quarter classes.

Cubbage told The Daily in October: “We believe it is critically important to be able to communicate with people in a timely basis in the event of an emergency and to do that we need to have your cell phone number or local number where you can be reached.”

Cubbage said it took him 5-10 minutes to cue up the notification system. Individuals began receiving the messages within minutes of their sending, he said.

“I was very encouraged that people got their messages and got them very promptly,” Cubbage said. “I think the new emergency notification system worked quite well.”

NU’s history of school closings includes the benchmarks of university history as well as the imprints of important national and global events.

According to Associate University Archivist Kevin Leonard, NU closed on May 1, 1893 to celebrate the opening day of the World’s Fair in Chicago; the university suspended classes on April 2, 1903 because President Theodore Roosevelt visited campus; and on Nov. 25, 1940 Evanston campus classes were dismissed because of the preceding Saturday’s victory over the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in football.

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