Sudden snow surprises UNC

Chancellor Carol Folt was at a conference in California on Tuesday.

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Freshmen Trevor Doane (right) and Megan NcNeill play soccer in the snow on Ehringhaus fields Tuesday. Classes were canceled at 2:30 p.m.

Folt, who said on Twitter that she is participating in a panel about sexual assault in California, was aware of the winter weather coming down at her school.

But Rick White, associate vice chancellor of communications and public affairs, said it was people in her office who made the decision to cancel classes after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday until 10 a.m. today.

“The Chancellor’s office ultimately makes the decision,” he said, identifying Provost Jim Dean and Chancellor’s Chief of Staff Debbie Dibbert as the leaders.

After snow began falling early Tuesday morning, students took to social media to express their safety concerns about still going to class. Folt responded to the trending hashtag #WheresCarol after pictures of her vacant parking spot outside South Building made their way around social media.

"#WheresCarol In California to speak at a national conference on sexual assault,” Folt tweeted.

Junior Audrey Anderson said one of her classmates fell in Swain Hall because of the slippery conditions and suffered a serious injury. Anderson said the injury was severe enough for her classmate to be taken out of the building on a stretcher.

Anderson said her professor decided to cancel the rest of class due to the commotion.

White said he did not have a comment about the Swain Hall incident, but he did stress that the decision to cancel school is made after consulting many different entities.

“It’s not a very simple, straight-forward, up-and-down, ‘Oh gee, it’s snowing, let’s cancel classes’ decision,” he said.

White said the University’s leaders talk with Chapel Hill Transit, the Chapel Hill Police Department, UNC’s Department of Public Safety and the school’s own buildings and grounds employees while weighing their options.

“There are so many different factors to consider,” White said.

Chapel Hill police also had an especially busy day because of the snowy conditions.

Lt. Josh Mecimore, Chapel Hill police spokesman, said officers responded to 20 different accidents after 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Police responded to eight crashes during a 30-minute period alone around 5 a.m. Tuesday.

White said every case and snow storm is different. He said the timing of Tuesday’s snowfall also added difficulty to the decision.

“If people are already on campus, it is often safer to keep them on campus instead of sending them home,” he said.

After all, White said, safety is the number one priority for those charged with making the decision.

“The guiding principle is everyone’s safety,” he said.

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