Now that the calendar has turned to December with the likelihood of wintry precipitation just around the corner, Western Carolina University officials are issuing a reminder to members of the campus community about the university’s adverse weather policy.
“The threat of snow, ice or other winter weather affecting class and work schedules in the coming weeks is a real possibility,” said Cory Causby, associate vice chancellor for human resources and payroll. “Students, faculty and staff need to be aware of the university’s adverse weather and emergency event policy (policy 41), which covers campus operating conditions and how decisions will be made and communicated in the event of inclement weather.”
Safety is always the university’s top consideration when making those decisions, Causby said. “The university is committed to communicating any change in status as far in advance as possible. When making weather-related decisions, we rely on information from our grounds, public safety and transportation staffs, law enforcement agencies, the National Weather Service and other sources.”
The adverse weather policy contains three condition levels that can be declared by the chancellor or by the chancellor’s designee in the event of inclement weather. Here is a look at the three condition levels:
Condition 1: Reduced operations, the university is open. Classes may or may not operate on a regular schedule. Employees designated as nonmandatory should use their own discretion in deciding whether or not to work, with appropriate notice given to their supervisor. Those employees must account for any leave taken, unless an exception is made through an executive order issued by the governor. Mandatory employees must report to or remain at work unless otherwise notified.
Condition 2: Suspension of all but mandatory operations. Classes are canceled and all nonmandatory operations are suspended. Nonmandatory employees must not report to work or must leave the workplace. Employees must account for any leave taken, unless an exception is made through a governor’s executive order. Mandatory employees must report to or remain at work unless otherwise notified.
Condition 3: University closure. The university is closed because of an extremely severe situation. Classes are canceled. All but the most critical mandatory operations are shut down. Nonmandatory employees must not work and must leave campus. These employees are not required to use personal leave when absent from work. All or a limited number of mandatory employees may be directed to remain at or report to work. No employees will be required to charge leave or make up work time that has been missed.
Current University of North Carolina system policy permits the designation of condition 3 only on a retroactive basis, Causby said. “As a rule, the university will declare a condition 1 or 2 only at the time of an adverse weather event,” he said.
“As always, deciding when and whether it is safe to travel to work, or if deteriorating weather conditions necessitate an early departure, ultimately lies with each individual faculty and staff member,” he said. “Employees are asked to communicate with their supervisor as soon as possible when they are concerned about traveling to and from campus.”
Classroom instructors who cannot travel to class meetings because of inclement weather should communicate with their department heads to discuss plans and, if the face-to-face class meetings must be canceled, communicate the news to their students as soon as possible, said Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “In those situations, the instructor should coordinate an alternative and meaningful assignment for students,” Morrison-Shetlar said.
When employees miss time because of adverse weather, the university may, but is not required to, offer employees designated as nonmandatory the option of making up the missed time, Causby said. “Employees can charge time lost to leave with or without pay, or work with their supervisors to potentially make up for time lost because of adverse weather,” he said. “If ‘make-up’ time is offered, it must be made up within 90 calendar days.”
In addition, supervisors are responsible for communicating to their employees whether they are designated “mandatory” or “nonmandatory.” Mandatory employees are required to work during adverse weather conditions, enabling the university to continue providing critical and essential services to students during inclement weather, Causby said.
When inclement weather causes changes in the class schedule, the university will make every effort to issue announcements by 6 a.m. for day classes and by 4 p.m. for evening classes for both the Cullowhee campus and WCU’s Programs at Biltmore Park, Morrison-Shetlar said. The announcements will be posted on the university’s website and social media channels, she said.
Staff members from WCU’s Office of Human Resources and Payroll will be holding information sessions about the adverse weather and emergency event policy. The sessions include a general overview of the policy and a time for questions. Upcoming sessions will be held in the auditorium of H.F. Robinson Administration Building from 9-10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 9, and 3:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11.
By Bill Studenc