The last time classes were interrupted due to bad weather, Professor of Religion Don Westblade recalls nearly getting stuck during a snowstorm.
“I had to chainsaw my way through a tree on my driveway to get to school, only to find it canceled,” he said. “Then I had to come back home and chainsaw through another one!”
That storm was in 2011, the last time all classes across campus were canceled for weather-related reasons. Classes were also canceled last year during a campus-wide lockdown. But for the most part, professors at Hillsdale have done their best to keep class in session at Hillsdale, despite occasional impediments — one of the best examples being 9/11.
On Sept. 11, 2001, according to The Collegian, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn spoke to a gathering of over 100 students and faculty just outside the Old Student Union, insisting that they not cancel class.
“We must go on with our work,” he said. “We’ve all got a job to do, just like everyone else in America. London continued to function (after it was bombed!). We’re going to act like that, too. We have to have the strength to keep ourselves together. In the meantime, each one of us should do his part.”
The events of 9/11 placed professors in a tough decision on whether or not to cancel classes, even after Arnn’s speech. Professor Busch said he ended his class half-way through and remembered dozens of students watching coverage of the event on TVs in the Old Student Union.
“We had the option of holding or not holding class,” he said. “I dreaded to hold it. Most students showed up. But it was really difficult. I tried to segway over to American literature. After 10 – 15 minutes, it became clear it wasn’t a time for students to focus. It rightfully was and needed to be on the event. In a case where it’s not possible to focus on the material, to cancel class, it was the one instance for canceling class to be the better case to cancel.”
In contrast to Professor Busch’s experience of that day, Professor of English Michael Jordan recalls, “We wanted to continue what we were doing: teaching.”
Before Westblade’s snowstorm incident in 2011, classes were also canceled due to massive blizzards in 2001, and before that, in 1997. The blizzard of 1997 was so bad that most of Hillsdale suffered severe power outages, according to the Feb. 7 Collegian issue of that year.
Jordan said that in terms of bad weather, “The College just goes on.
“I think that’s commendable. It’s hard for faculty to get here, but students can usually tread up the hill.”
Christopher Busch particularly emphasizes safety, saying that for him, “If lives are at risk, and it’s hard with Michigan because weather is always hard, better to err on caution. But [students] live nearby, so it’s alright.”
Another class cancelation incident occurred last year with a campus lockdown on March 22, 2017. All students were restricted to wherever they were when lockdown was initiated, whether that was Bon Appétit or the classroom.
“With the lockdown, everything just stopped,” Busch said. He added later that in unpredictable situations, “If it’s dangerous, there’s a higher priority than what we’re trying to accomplish that particular day. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Nevertheless, Westblade said he recognizes that students have already paid for their education and that “If I cancel a class, there’s a little bit of theft in there.” He tries to keep their best interest in mind with regard to class cancelations and sees it as his duty to “make sure students [get their] money’s worth out of me.”
“More than 25 years ago, away on a weekend in Ohio, I got a flat tire,” he said. “I couldn’t make it in time for class. I always felt bad; it was the only class canceled for something unplanned.”
“Our business is teaching, and that’s what we do. I believe most college professors are very aware, very conscious of the time they spend with students in the classroom.”