No snow day announcement met with Twitter backlash

The decision made by University officials to proceed as normal on Monday despite expected cold temperatures was met with backlash from select students on Twitter. Most of the content targeted Chancellor Phyllis Wise after she sent out a mass email to the campus community Sunday night, notifying everyone that the University would hold classes the next day.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the University will never shut down completely because it is a residential campus. There will always be employees around, working in residence halls, on experiments or in police operations.

The Campus Emergency Operations Committee met and made the decision about 10 minutes before the email was sent, Kaler said.

“We did not think there was a threat to the safety of our students if they dressed for the weather and took appropriate measures to get where they needed to go,” she said.

Though it is possible for temperatures to reach a point that would warrant canceling classes, Monday’s temperature did not reach that level, Kaler said.

It wasn’t long before the University’s decision was quickly shot down by University students via Twitter.

From Sunday night through Monday afternoon, more than 400 users posted more than 700 tweets expressing their reactions to Wise’s email using the hashtag #fuckphyllis, according to Keyhole, a Twitter data tracking website. As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the number of tweets had fallen to 421.

Among those tweets were many that included crude comments about Wise.

Wise spoke at the Senate Executive Committee meeting Monday, reiterating that she is not solely in charge of the decision.

SEC chair Roy Campbell said he was dismayed by students’ reactions on Twitter.

“I fully support the chancellor’s decision to keep the campus open today,” Campbell said. “I’m fully confident that the chancellor was conscious of the issues concerned. I call upon all concerned faculty, staff and students to disapprove of these disrespectful comments from a few of our students.”

Kaler said Wise doesn’t have a Twitter and did not see the student backlash, including the crude comments against her.

Within an hour of Wise’s email, Student Body President Damani Bolden sent out his own mass email to the Illinois Student Senate Listserv lobbying for student safety. He said he spoke with the administration and continued to stay in contact with campus administration throughout the night.

“This is a learning moment for us all,” Bolden said. “We need to sit down as a community and look at the inclement weather policy and look at the policy surrounding when and why we cancel class depending on when it is beneficial to the students.”

Students have been advised by administrators about the frigid temperature, including an email from University Housing that provided tips on dealing with the cold weather.

“There needed to be a safety email sent out,” Bolden said. “With the temperatures we are currently experiencing, it’s imperative that we focus on the safety of the students.”

Eric Snodgrass, director of undergraduate study for the atmospheric sciences department, advised students via Twitter about the harmful effects this frigid weather can have and how to take the necessary precautions when going outside.

When the windchill is as cold as it was Monday “exposed skin can freeze in about 30 minutes,” Snodgrass said.

These cold temperatures “can lead to frostbite,” he said, “really it’s your fingers, your nose and your ears — as long as you keep them covered you’ll be fine.”

Monday’s high temperatures were listed at minus 3 with wind chill values between minus 19 and minus 24.

Miranda and Bryan can be reached at [email protected]

Danielle Brown contributed to this report.