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Posted on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Don't get your hopes up: Snow days are rare at the University of Michigan

By David Jesse

It’s been more than three decades since University of Michigan students had a snow day.

That’s why third-year student Eric Lawry isn’t planning for a break from class on Wednesday, no matter how much snows falls on Ann Arbor.

“They never close,” Lawry said. “I don’t think they will this time either.”

The last time U-M closed was 1978, spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

“Basically, U-M’s policy is to stay open at all times,” he said.

Because U-M is basically a residential college, it’s easier for students to get to class, officials say. Plus, even if students aren’t going to class, U-M still has responsibility for them.

“They still need to be fed,” Fitzgerald said, and that means operations staff has to report.

An often-repeated story links the never-closing policy to a rumored lawsuit by a law school student for tuition money lost when the university closed due to inclement weather. University officials have said they can’t find any evidence of such a lawsuit.

For schools with more commuters, like Eastern Michigan University, the coming snowstorm could cause trouble.

EMU’s policy calls for a decision to be made on morning classes before 6 a.m., afternoon classes to be made before 9:30 a.m. and evening classes to be made before 3 p.m.

Spokesman Geoff Larcom said there will be discussions on Tuesday about whether to keep the school open. EMU closed twice last winter for snow and ice.

David Jesse covers higher education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

President Coleman lives on campus (South U in a big white house) so there is no doubt she will be on campus on Wednesday. Do you think she will be intentionally commuting threw the blizzard to LEAVE campus? Seriously... ignorant comments for the win. Apparently other people enjoy them too considering it received 30 "up votes". You've got to be kidding me.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

I should add - having worked at the U for 27 years - it has NOT closed since then. Staff has had to show up to work - regardless of the weather - ever since.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

I remember Winter 1978 very well. We had about 2 feet of snow at East Quad. Sure was glad to live, work, and go to class all in one residence hall! It was very good weather for traying at the Arb, if a bit slippery getting there.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Actually, that isn't really true. Its been 30 years since UM has closed because of snow. It closed in Winter 95 or 96 with an ice storm.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

Although U-M may not have officially closed, when I was an undergrad in late December 1997, I remember that many of my classes were called off during a particularly bad snowstorm.

Tim Belcher

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

My freshman year at the U in '78. I remember going to the Arb to "sled" with ...uh..makeshift sleds. We did have a blast. There was alot of snow and no shortage of "extra-curricular activities" from what I recall.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

"In addition to that, it's obvious the U cares little for the "operations staff", many of whom live significantly away from campus. Critical personnel can get picked up in 4 wheel drive vehicles, but the rest have to fend for themselves." Yep, kinda like everyone else in the world - Stores, Manufacturing Plants, Utilities. But, I am allowed to take vacation tomorrow if I like.

Tom Joad

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

They are projecting 12" for the area but it could reach 20" UM and all of Ann Arbor will be DE FACTO CLOSED Cars won't even move during the rush-hour deluge. The City and County will only concentrate on main thoroughfares. This is deadly serious storm.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 3:06 a.m.

Opps, sorry for the redundant posting! I didn't see all the others.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 3:03 a.m.

Ben - Check this out. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

We packed the arch at West Engin with snow, then flooded it with water. Ahhh, those were the days. The only way to get around was with skis.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

I like both stories as to why the UM never closes during winter storms... - Sued for lost tuition...typical law student. - If you can get to the party store, you can get to class...typical old fart administration reaction. Heck, stop at the party store on the way to class! No Profs. will be in classs! Oh, sorry, that would be MSU!


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

I was a UM student in 2001, and they cancelled classes on 9/11 - that's the only time I know of. Classes weren't cancelled until late morning or early afternoon, of course, and I vaguely recall some of my engineering friends going to class after the announcement and a professor still holding it... Of course I also remember tracking through about a foot of snow, only to discover that another sidewalk had already been plowed...


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

Not on the same day. I wonder if there were other days that the U closed for non-weather related reasons?


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

I remember making huge snow forts in 1978. Maybe, I will get to do the same with my kids on Wednesday.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

me too! :) I remember the piles of snow that Dad shoveled were taller than me on either side of the driveway. It'll be fun watching the kids.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

I remember the snow storm of 1978 very well. It dumped 20 inches or more overnight, and the University of Michigan did indeed close. My friend had recently moved here from western Kansas, where they get snow, but it blows away quickly. This was a totally different experience for him to see the mounds and mountains of snow. Since we didn't have to worry about driving anywhere, he was absolutely enchanted and was so glad he had come to UM for grad school. The tiny snow plow which the North Campus Coops owned was stuck in a pile of snow until April.

Edward Vielmetti

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:13 p.m.

Here's the link to the Michigan Daily front page for Jan 27, 1978 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> &quot;Rampaging blizzard rakes state; Nat'l Guard called out; 'U' closes&quot;

Edward Vielmetti

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

Here's the National Weather Service story of the Great Blizzard of 1978: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> &quot;The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged throughout Thursday January 26, 1978 and into part of Friday January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state.&quot;


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

I went to Michigan Tech. They canceled class when I was there due to cold temperatures. (I believe the temp was about -40°F and the windchill was somewhere in the neighborhood of -80 or so.) That was in January of 1994. Superior was frozen over, so the snow pretty much stopped falling. The temperature itself didn't get above 0°F for well over a month. I have never been so cold in my entire life. Rarely do they cancel for snowfall up there, but I have heard of them doing so. If the plows can't drive, they'll cancel classes.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

My daughter attended Ferris State in Big Rapids where of course they get alot of lake effect snow and they never closed either. She said the popular legend around campus up there was one time they cancelled classed due to snow, then the party stores ran out of beer beause of all the parties. The next time they had a big snow storm the president said if they can get to the party stores they can get to class. Of course my daughter didn't know if this was true or not.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

I am not sure when your daughter was at Ferris, but I was a freshman there in January 1978. They kept saying the school had never had a snow day in its history and would not have one then, either. But the storm was so bad, that we did have Thursday and Friday off. I do believe the party stores were emptied. Back then drinking age was legally 18.

John of Saline

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

It was 23 below zero overnight one night when I was on campus in the 1990s. It was still below zero when I went to class. I actually took my hand towel and tied it like a scarf/bandit's mask to cover most of my face. As it turned out, I wasn't the only one who had to improvise a scarf. My friend had her glasses freeze to her face. At that point, she just went back home.

Ben Connor Barrie

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

Also, any information on how much snow there was when U of M canceled classes in 1978?

John B.

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

In this general part of the country, the Winter of 1977-1978 was by far the snowy-est I recall (in over 50 years). It just kept snowing and snowing, and not melting in-between. A lot of buildings had their roof collapse that Winter.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> According to the Daily, it was 19 inches.

Emma B

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 9:20 p.m.

According to the Daily there were 19 inches. (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Ben Connor Barrie

Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

I plan on borrowing the snow shoes from my lab tonight.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

When going to school at the U they never closed, no matter how much snow fell. Once I got to class, though, I found note after note on the classroom doors saying that the faculty member had cancelled class. So, the U can say it reamins open, but just to the door of the class. In addition to that, it's obvious the U cares little for the &quot;operations staff&quot;, many of whom live significantly away from campus. Critical personnel can get picked up in 4 wheel drive vehicles, but the rest have to fend for themselves.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

One would be hard pressed to find any of the Regents or President Coleman on campus on Wednesday.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

Todd, if you're referring to the president's mansion, I could be wrong, but I don't think she stays there. I think she has a much swankier place than that.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

President Coleman lives on campus. Unless she's traveling, I expect she'll be there.