UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With Penn State’s return to on-campus teaching, learning and working for the 2021-22 academic year, the University has updated its guidance for students, faculty and staff in the event that normal campus operations are disrupted due to winter weather.
The University community is reminded that during inclement weather, the Office of Physical Plant will be working diligently to clear sidewalks, parking lots and roadways as quickly as possible. In the event that normal operations at a Penn State location are disrupted due to snow or other weather or emergency conditions, individuals are urged to avoid coming to campus, if possible, and those who must visit campus should remain alert and avoid sections of campus that may be covered in snow or ice.
When severe weather strikes Penn State's University Park campus, individuals can stay informed of delays and cancellations by using Penn State's PSUAlert system, Twitter account, the Penn State News website, and WPSU TV and radio. Penn Staters at other campuses can stay informed about delays and cancellations via PSUAlert and their campus’ website and social media channels.
All employees and students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own safety. Faculty, staff and students should use their own best judgment when considering traveling to campus or the need to leave early during times of inclement weather. Faculty and staff should review Handling Weather Day Absences (Human Resources Guideline 10) for specific information on how time missed for weather situations is handled. Union-represented employees should reference their collective bargaining agreements. Information on class attendance policies is available at undergrad.psu.edu and in Faculty Senate Policy 42-27 (Class Attendance).
In the event of a change in normal campus operations due to weather or an emergency, such as during a delay or cancellation, in-person courses cannot be moved to a synchronous remote meeting, per Faculty Senate Policy 45-00, due to the fact that all students, faculty and instructors may not have the same access to University facilities and resources (such as Wi-Fi or materials needed for specialized instruction) or they may have other commitments, such as child care.
Based on a course’s mode of delivery, the following actions apply during a change in normal campus operations:
- In-person: The instructor can choose to cancel class altogether or offer content asynchronously (such as recording a lecture for students to watch at another time or asking students to complete a reading or other self-directed learning activity). The class may not meet remote synchronously.
- Hybrid: If the class is scheduled to meet in-person on the day of the change in normal operations, then content can be offered asynchronously or the class can be canceled. Otherwise, asynchronous content can be offered as planned.
- Remote synchronous: Classes already scheduled as remote synchronous may continue to be taught remote synchronously if the faculty member wishes and is safely able to do so. Alternatively, classes may be canceled or offered asynchronously.
- Web: Classes will continue to be offered as planned with no changes.
Unless an instructor is designated an “essential employee,” they should not travel to campus during a change in normal campus operations. If a faculty member’s use of a classroom or other setting for specialized instructional materials is necessary in order to teach a class previously scheduled to be delivered remotely, then that class should be offered asynchronously or canceled.
With the return to primarily in-person or hybrid working arrangements, it is recommended that all supervisors talk with their employees about their expectations prior to any winter weather that may approach their area. Supervisors should be flexible to allow employees the option to use accrued vacation, personal or holiday time, adjust hours during a change in normal campus operations, or transition to remote operations, where operationally feasible.
During a change in campus operations, the following procedures are in place for employees based on their individual work circumstances:
- Employees required to report to campus: Employees who are required to report to campus for work and have been previously identified as performing duties essential to maintaining operations should report to campus as directed. During such events, employees who are required to report to campus for work are eligible for Campus Closure Compensatory Time for all hours worked, subject to guideline provisions. Employees should clarify their status as essential or nonessential with their supervisor before inclement weather strikes.
- Employees working on campus: Employees who have not been previously identified as performing duties essential to maintaining operations, who are unable to perform their work remotely, and who are currently reporting to campus for their job, should not report to work. Such employees are eligible for Campus Closure Pay, subject to guideline provisions. Employees who are currently working on campus but who can perform their job responsibilities remotely should not report to campus and instead work remotely. Such employees are not eligible for Campus Closure Compensatory Time.
- Employees working remotely (including hybrid schedules): If an employee is working remotely and the employee continues to be able to work, they should perform their regularly assigned work functions. The employee is not eligible for Campus Closure Compensatory Time. An employee working a rotating schedule of on-campus and remote work (i.e., a hybrid location schedule) should plan to work remotely when there is a potential for, and/or during, inclement weather, regardless of rotation schedule. Such employees are not eligible for Campus Closure Compensatory Time.
- Working at an alternate work location: If an employee is working at an alternate location (e.g., attending a conference or training) and the employee continues to be able to work, they should perform their regularly assigned work functions. Such employees are not eligible for Campus Closure Compensatory Time if they are able to fulfill their job responsibilities.
Employees who have questions about a campus closure should contact their unit’s Human Resources consultant.
Following a delay, classes or activities beginning at or after the announced time for the resumption of normal campus operations will be held as originally scheduled. For example, in the case of a two-hour morning delay until 10 a.m. due to snow or ice, classes beginning at 10 a.m. or later will continue on their regular schedule, while classes scheduled prior to 10 a.m. will be subject to the provisions outlined in the “Classes” section above.
Any in-person activities that are scheduled to begin during a delayed campus opening are canceled. Activities beginning at or after the announced time for resuming campus operations will be held as originally scheduled.
At times, the University may dismiss early students, faculty and staff who are already on campus from their normal, day-to-day business and classes at Penn State due to approaching severe weather. The need to dismiss early may allow our commuting community to leave before roads become inaccessible.
To facilitate an orderly dismissal, the University will announce the dismissal as early as possible via PSUAlert and other official platforms listed below. The following method for dismissal will be used to release students, faculty and staff:
- Students will be the first to be released.
- Faculty and staff members will be released simultaneously 30-45 minutes after the release of students.
Early dismissals will be timed to occur at either the beginning of the hour or 30 minutes past the hour. This two-tiered dismissal should help with the flow of outbound traffic and provide students with an opportunity to exit common areas and the buildings before they are closed.
If there is a fast-moving storm that strikes during hours of normal operation, University officials will attempt to communicate weather information, as well as the expected duration of the storm, so that individuals on campus can make reasonable choices. If the storm is of short duration, remaining on campus may be the best option for some. Other individuals may need to leave work for family reasons.
Official information sources
For information on inclement weather, the Penn State community should check WPSU-FM and Penn State News — the official sources for weather-related delay or cancellation advisories at Penn State's University Park campus. In addition, advisories will be sent directly to cellphones, email and Twitter via PSUAlert. An active Penn State account is required for users to access PSUAlert and add or change contact settings, such as additional emails and cell numbers for text messages. Although signup for the PSUAlert system is reserved for students, faculty and staff, members of the public are encouraged to follow alerts from Penn State’s campuses via Facebook and Twitter. Specific links for those who wish to follow PSUAlert messages on Facebook and Twitter, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, can be found at psualert.psu.edu.
The operating status at Penn State Altoona and Penn State DuBois also will be aired on WPSU, which broadcasts in those regions. All other campus locations should identify their preferred method of communication before inclement weather strikes and distribute that information to their communities.
WPSU, which airs 24-hour programming, can be heard at 91.5 FM in State College, Bellefonte, Lock Haven and surrounding areas, and 90.1 FM in northern Pennsylvania counties. A complete list of station frequencies is available on the WPSU website. The station also is at wpsu.org, and closings are listed at wpsu.org/closings. When notified, WPSU will begin its live broadcasting earlier than the usual start time of 5 a.m., and will interrupt regularly scheduled programming to give periodic updates throughout the day or night.
In addition to WPSU, information also will be promptly and prominently issued online at Penn State News — psu.edu/news — assuming that power and internet connectivity are not adversely affected by the weather.
Although classes and other scheduled activities may be delayed or canceled, the University Park campus never really closes. There are thousands of students on campus who require meals and warm lodging, and there are critical research projects that require constant attention, as well as livestock that must be fed, watered and sheltered. Because of this, it is critical that Penn State effectively maintain services that affect safety and health when extreme cold, heavy snow, or other weather emergency affects the area. University Police and other emergency services remain operational around the clock regardless of the weather.