Oct 262011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

University officials decided to cancel all Wednesday Oct. 26 classes and activities after 5 p.m. due to dangerous weather conditions — a move that was motivated in part by the fact that a student was hospitalized after being struck by falling tree branches earlier that morning.

The student, an unidentified junior, was walking north of Braiden Hall around 11 a.m. when she was struck in the head. Her condition was unknown at the time of publication.

Classes held in buildings around the Oval –– including Ammons Hall, Guggenheim Hall, Laurel Hall, the Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), Wagar, Forestry, Occupational Therapy, Gibbons, Johnson Hall, Centennial Hall, Student Services, Administration Building and Danforth Chapel –– are also cancelled for Thursday.

Employees in those facilities, however, are asked to report to work as normal.

Campus authorities will determine at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning whether the rest of campus should be closed for the day.

The Oval will remain closed to pedestrian and vehicle access until tree damage assessments are completed, which is expected to last until the end of the week.

Fort Collins received five inches of snow on Wednesday and is expected to receive more Thursday.
In addition to icing the walkways, the snow accumulated on many of the trees around CSU, causing their branches to weaken dramatically.

CSU’s public safety team –– consisting of university President Tony Frank, Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda, other vice presidents and press relation officials –– made the decision to shut down the campus in a meeting Wednesday that took place around 2 p.m.

“It’s a very vivid reminder of what we want to avoid in this type of situation,” Frank said of the student who was injured on campus.

The university’s public relations office and the Poudre Fire Authority, which responded to the 911 calls about her, could not release information about the condition of the student.

“A good majority of the tree branches snapped and they fell down and hit her,” said Jessica Thurston, a freshman business major who was 30 feet away from the incident when it happened. “She was buried and about 20 people were running over there shoving the branches off of her.”

Freshman animal science major Haley Davis was walking with Thurston when it happened.

“We heard some of the branches start to crack, and then they just went down. It was like a sonic boom, almost,” she said, adding that a nearby car alarm was set off despite being untouched.
On Tuesday, students wondered whether CSU would be shut down Wednesday when they heard forecasts for heavy snow.

In response, Frank emailed students saying classes would probably not be cancelled because of the inclement weather –– despite the possible dangers individuals might face while braving the conditions.

Closing campus is “less likely than the Cubs winning the next World Series,” read the email. “I anticipate the inevitable calls and emails wondering why we’re not closing campus and why we don’t care about your safety … If the city and county are asking people to stay off the roads, we generally shut down. If the city and county aren’t asking people to stay at home, I usually talk with our folks at CSUPD and (the University Facilities Department) and I typically drive outside city limits before making the decision to close or not.”

With the injured CSU student in mind, Frank reflected on his Tuesday email.

“The message that I sent out yesterday rings a little hollow,” he said in an email sent about 6 p.m. Wednesday. “Clearly the severity of the damage to trees took us all by surprise, and I wish I’d had the benefit of what we know now when I made the decision to keep campus open today. Since a student was hurt, that was obviously the wrong call.”

“There is nothing I take more seriously than the safety and education of our students, and while I am very reluctant, for some of the reasons I mentioned yesterday, to close the university under any situation that does not involve a real and serious threat to students and employees, in retrospect, I missed the call today.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:17 pm

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