Oklahoma college students took to social media outlets in droves Friday to express their frustration over decisions to open campuses.
Students on the Facebook pages for the University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Rose State College cited poor driving conditions and chided the universities for showing a lack of concern for student safety.
Charlie Johnson, vice president for university relations at UCO, responded to a media request for comment by e-mail Friday.
“For students: Our provost has asked faculty to observe a liberal absentee policy today. Any student who can make it to class is asked to do so. If they cannot, instructors will allow them to make up missed work,” he wrote.
Faculty, whose pay normally could be docked for missing class without having submitted an alternative instruction plan, also were shown leniency, Johnson wrote.
The decision to open campus was based on information from university personnel who drove the campus and surrounding streets, Johnson wrote. His note also said physical plant personnel worked tirelessly getting the campus ready to reopen, including plowing parking lots and clearing most sidewalks and building entrances. In addition, the university's website showed a map of which building entrances were cleared first, as well as winter weather safety tips for students, faculty and staff.
UCO student Raymond Thomas was among those who ventured to class Friday, but he wasn't happy.
Thomas, 27, a business major who lives in northwest Oklahoma City, said it took about an hour to get to his first 50-minute class Friday morning. The drive to the Edmond campus usually takes 30 minutes.
“The neighborhood and side streets were horrible,” he said. “On the side streets around the school, I saw students stuck in the street and a line of cars just trying to get into the school parking lots.”
The sidewalks had been sanded, he said, but snow falling while he was in class made for a slippery walk back to his car. Thomas said he saw one student fall, and a friend told him she injured her hand falling on campus.
A trip back for a 1 p.m. class resulted in more frustration.
“The teacher didn't show up,” Thomas said. She didn't notify students that she would be absent, he said.
“So we went in the snow and ice to go to a class that was canceled only to turn right back around and come home,” he said.
In Stillwater, OSU students had mixed feelings about returning to school Friday.
Some built a snow fort outside Whitehurst Hall, while others were angry about having to travel on roads, sidewalks and parking lots that were not completely cleared.
Cally Kingsley, a chemical engineering junior from Oklahoma City, said she didn't have trouble getting to campus or her classes Friday. Her three classes were mostly full, she said.
Roads around her neighborhood were slick and some walking paths on campus were only wide enough for one person, but Kingsley said the situation could have been much worse. She said physical plant workers did a great job clearing campus.
“I know they were working really hard while we were all at home,” Kingsley said.
Other students were upset about returning Friday.
Erick Iarrusso, a psychology senior from Broken Arrow, said officials made a mistake opening campus Friday. He said he slipped several times while walking to class and he helped two people get their cars unstuck in a commuter parking lot.
Gary Shutt, director of communications at OSU, said physical plant crews worked relentlessly this week to clear campus.
By Friday, most walkways and sidewalks were clear, Shutt said. He said piles of snow blocked some parking spaces but lots were cleared as much as possible. Stillwater Public Schools were in session and many businesses were open, he said.
He said safety is the top priority when officials make a decision about whether to close campus during inclement weather.
At Rose State College in Midwest City, spokesman Ben Fenwick said the college president made the decision to open campus Friday knowing it was a very light class day.
“This just gave faculty a chance to come in and assess the situation, to open the books and see where we are,” he said. “We hope we don't have more of this to deal with next week.”
Two small quakes reported
Two small earthquakes were reported to have been felt by about 60 people in Midwest City and Del City, a scientist said. At 8:06 p.m. Thursday, a magnitude 2.5 earthquake was felt by about 50 people living between N Air Depot and N Midwest Boulevard between NE 23 and NE 10, said Austin Holland, a seismologist for the Oklahoma Geological Survey. At 1:30 a.m. Friday, a magnitude 2.3 quake was felt by about 10 people who reported it from the same area, Holland said. It is possible extra ground moisture can contribute to earthquakes, but snowfall moisture has not seeped far enough below ground to cause a quake. The quakes were about three miles below the surface, Holland said. Holland said he has been tracking small earthquakes reported since 2009 in the Jones area. The largest one was a magnitude 4.7 quake on Oct. 13, centered southeast of Lake Thunderbird in Cleveland County. No damage was reported from the smaller earthquakes Thursday and Friday.
ROBERT MEDLEY, STAFF WRITER