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A massive blizzard hit Hillsdale in 2011, forcing the college to cancel classes. | Winona Yearbook

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.”   

Jordan agreed.

“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.”

  • Derek T. Muller

    Dr. Arnn’s address to the 9/11 “gath­ering” was a little more informal and terse, if I recall… the “gath­ering” were people glued to the tele­vision in the student union. Dr. Arnn strode forward, turned it off, turned around, and said some­thing along the lines of “it’s time to get back to class,” along with some of these remarks. At the time I was so angry that (some) pro­fessors still held class, because I was so wildly dis­tract. In ret­ro­spect, I’m so very glad – the point of ter­rorism is to disrupt our order, and Hillsdale did a great job of trying to make as little dis­ruption as pos­sible. (As a footnote, it means that the CCA held that week had far more videoed-in speakers than one might prefer.…)