MSU President Defends Decision to Stay Open Despite Extreme Cold

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For the first time since 1978, The University of Michigan canceled classes Monday because of the extreme temperatures, and many other schools did the same.

But Michigan State University wasn't one of them, and students were not happy.

"It's very, very cold," MSU junior Katlyn Taylor said.

It wasn't cold enough, according to MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

"We have an established process for looking at whether we cancel classes or not," Simon said. "It's based on a pretty deliberate scientific model. We just follow those guidelines."

The guidelines include temperature, wind chill, and snow. MSU has a weather modeling system that tracks those conditions in East Lansing specifically. Between negative 30 to 35 could mean closing, but it reached about 25 below zero.

"The worst wind chill here occurred about 2:00 in the morning, which may have been when some of the students were leaving establishments in East Lansing," Simon said.

Many of them may have been home, too, anxiously awaiting a message about canceled classes that never came.

"I woke this morning at like 5 a.m., like praying that I would have an email," MSU graduate student Danielle Vanvliet said. "Nothing. I'm like, 'Shoot, we're open!' So, I got up, came to class."

As part of a message to students about staying open, the university included a frostbite calculator and recommendations for handling the cold. Some students felt it was just salt in the wound, but the president said it's for their safety.

"You want them to be responsible, at the same time recognize that this is a transition from where they may have been," Simon said.

But frostbite can occur in 10 to 15 minutes in these conditions, which is about the average walk to class for most students.

"I'm walking as fast as possible, and my eyes won't stop watering," MSU sophomore Ryan Stead said.

Most students dressed in several layers including ski masks and heavy socks.

"Just as many layers as possible," Taylor said. "Big socks on, and after five minutes, I can't feel my toes."

When classes were canceled on January 6, it was also largely due to snow making campus impassable, but that's not an issue now.

"Everything's open, buses are running, and it's not so bad out there, is it?" Simon said.

MSU will continue to monitor the conditions through the week, but the president said it's unlikely classes will be canceled.

Lansing Community College was also open today. It offered free parking for students and staff.

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