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Starting semester off snowy: U. community reacts to class cancellations due to weather

Students, experts and a University spokesperson provide input on the snowfall that occurred in the first week of the semester and caused classes to be cancelled or moved to an online format.  – Photo by

The recent snowfall in New Jersey that occurred during the third week of January impacted University operations and students, including classes and extracurricular activities.

The inclement weather conditions led to Rutgers classes adopting an online format for two days in the first week of the semester, according to a University-wide email alert.

Students spoke to The Daily Targum about their experiences with the University's response to the weather conditions and shared their reactions to the changing climate. 

Jay Shah, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said that he did not feel negatively affected when some of his classes had been moved online because he found the University's reaction to be effective.

Himani Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she supported the University's decision to cancel or move classes online. She said that many students would have had difficulty getting to class and was glad that the University took the initiative to prioritize student safety.

"For the safety of the students, they did well ... (Students could) join classes from their house instead of having to drive or even walk on the icy roads," Patel said. "I think that was a good thing from the school's end."

Shah said he could see the tangible effects of climate change and that he is concerned about its effects on New Jersey as temperatures consistently rise in colder months.

He said he does not know what actions Rutgers could take to actively combat climate change but hopes it will do more to raise awareness in the student body.

"For example, it's January right now, and it's 60 degrees out," Shah said. "I really think at the rate that we're going right now, New Jersey is on its way to becoming the next Florida. That's how hot I think it will get here pretty soon."

Patel said she noticed more students getting ill and believes this is correlated with the changing climate. She said the University can take action in combating climate change by fixing the bus system and trying to eliminate the pollution that is emitted by the buses.

A University spokesperson said that the recent snowfall led to University operations transitioning to remote learning and work, both asynchronous and synchronous. Moving online instead of entirely canceling classes is a new development in University operations since the COVID-19 pandemic.

University operations are determined by the Rutgers Office of Emergency Management, which decides the University's opening status and is responsible for advising the University on current snowfall, the spokesperson said.

"Rutgers Office of Emergency Management follows weather forecasts closely and provides detailed information on impending storms and adverse weather to University leaders," the spokesperson said. "As weather events develop, the University's chief operating officer, Antonio Calcado, recommends changes as needed to the University's operating status to the president and chancellors."

James Shope, an assistant extension specialist of climate services in the Department of Environmental Sciences, said that while this year's snowfall was not out of the ordinary, it has been lower than in previous years.

He said there are many variables that come into play when considering snowfall averages, including climate change.

"If we look at temperatures, our winters have generally become milder in recent years ... Similarly, summers have been getting hotter," Shope said. "This translates into more extreme heat days and potential heatwaves. One thing to note: The weather from year to year can vary, so when we talk of increasing temperatures or the number of very hot days, we need to think of it as an 'on average' assessment."

Shope said the weather patterns caused by climate change will likely continue for the next one or two decades. Increased temperatures during summer and winter can exacerbate health issues and impact plant growth, he said.

In the case of other inclement weather conditions, Rutgers community members will be notified of any changes in operating status through text notifications, University-wide email messages and social media, according to the University spokesperson.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated classes began in the second week. Classes began in the third week.

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