California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Cal Lu’s Calendar: Little Room for Emergencies

    Every school year, California Lutheran University creates an academic calendar, which includes important dates such as finals weeks and holidays when campus is closed. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are a certain amount of days the federal government requires for colleges to be in session to fulfill credit units, which means that when the calendar is planned, there is sometimes no flexibility to have a plan for unexpected events.

    In fall semester 2017, Cal Lutheran staff had to rearrange the schedule due to a power outage across campus, but there was fortunately a holiday that was able to be switched around to accommodate the missing day. However, if something like that were to happen again during spring semester, there would not be enough flexibility.

    โ€œIโ€™ve been here for 24 years at Cal Lutheran and this is the first year that weโ€™ve had anything like this where itโ€™s been, you know, touch-and-go, do we need to close or not?โ€ said Leanne Neilson, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Cal Lutheran. โ€œThere are so many different variables in play, we donโ€™t have a lock-step answer.โ€

    Due to the recent Thomas fire and the Montecito mudslides, the academic calendar of University of California, Santa Barbara had to be rearranged, resulting in their fall quarter finals being postponed.

    โ€œThe air quality was so abysmal they cancelled school,โ€ said Peter Brancato, a junior at UCSB. โ€œI was really worried because I was studying a lot the last week of school for the finals and I was worried, if they were cancelled, what exactly were they going to do? There didnโ€™t really seem to be a concrete plan.โ€

    Neilson said campus calendars have to go through multiple offices in order to be approved, which makes it even more difficult to have further compliance.

    When the Thomas fire moved closer to the UCSB campus, Brancato said he knew of many faculty members and students, including himself, who were facing various circumstances such as having no way of getting to the school or having families evacuated.

    The discussion of cancelling finals and ending the quarter short eventually came about when the air quality reached a point where many students were refusing to attend classes and concerned parents began requesting to have a campus shut down.

    โ€œThere were a lot of students and parents who were happy and relieved because they had concerns about staying on campus with all of this going on. It became very clear that there might be difficulties with transportation to and from campus,โ€ said Leesa Beck, who works at the UCSB Registrar and plans the institutionโ€™s academic calendar.

    On the other hand, Beck said there were many students who were prepared for their finals already, and it would become a hardship for them to have to study again and come back to their classes. This also affected the students who were supposed to earn their diplomas in the fall because that would be pushed back as well.

    โ€œBreak life wasnโ€™t relaxing at all because the entire time all I could really think about was that I had to go back and finish my finals and I donโ€™t have time to enjoy this time off,โ€ Brancato said.

    Beck said the last-minute arrangement was made after all possibilities were brainstormed. ย It ended up being a close call, but ultimately the right one. She said that although it is not always realistic to have a specific plan for every potential disaster, it is a good idea to have some sort of foundation for one.

    โ€œEven though you canโ€™t plan for every contingency, it is really important to have those conversations and make it an ongoing conversation around disaster preparedness, and have the people who are going to be dealing with each other in a disaster situation get to know each other in time, so that when it happens, they can function well as a team,โ€ Beck said.

    Neilson said there is not much wiggle room at Cal Lutheran.

    โ€œSome institutions that are in states where thereโ€™s often closures for snow days, they sometimes put in extra days. Fortunately, we donโ€™t need that,โ€ Neilson said.

    Neilson said it is rare for the Cal Lutheran campus to need extra days for closure. However, she said if it was necessary, holiday breaks would be sacrificed.

    โ€œIf we were ever in a situation like that, we have amazingly resilient students and staff, I think they would handle that very well,โ€ said Maria Kohnke, associate provost of Academic Services and Registrar at Cal Lutheran.

    Kohnke said that if Cal Lutheran were to potentially lessen summer break in order to be flexible in an emergency, โ€œit is theoretically possible to be necessary, but highly unlikely.โ€

    Neilson said that at the faculty meeting in December, she did suggest that classes begin a week earlier in the fall, cutting time off of summer break.

    โ€œI threw the idea out there of starting a week earlier in August; I havenโ€™t gotten any enthusiasm about that,โ€ Neilson said.
    Brooke Oyler