Cold strikes Rexburg: BYU-I remains open

Snow covers the BYU Idaho sign north of campus Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

Rexburg is no stranger to the cold. The Idaho college town is striking in both temperature and beauty when the winter months roll in.

The National Weather Service defines wind chill as, “What the air temperature feels like to the human skin due to the combination of cold temperatures and winds blowing on exposed skin.”

Frostbite is a very real and serious consequence of this kind of cold. These temperatures can feel more like the wind is searing into you with viciously cold teeth.

In light of this, BYU-Idaho posted on Instagram and asked students to, “Please avoid outdoor activities if possible and be sure to wear appropriate clothing when outside.”

The school’s official Instagram posted again and added, “Dress appropriately when walking across campus. The BYU-Idaho campus remains open Monday.”

On Monday morning temperatures were minus 20 without wind. The elements resulted in transportation disruptions for countless students, both walking and driving.

“My car wouldn’t start because of the cold and I had to get a jump start,” said Tanner Lawrence, one of many students whose car battery died.

Campus advised instructors to accommodate students and consider offering classes over video. Lawrence was one of the students who benefited from this.

“Luckily classes were moved to online,” Lawrence said. “Otherwise, I would have been super late.”

Student's cars covered with snow
Student’s cars covered with snow Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

Students walking in the negative-degree weather experienced cold-like knives under their skin, frosted hair and frozen eyelashes.

Alena Hartpence, a BYU-I student, shared that while also experiencing car trouble, she dressed far warmer since she is not used to this level of cold.

“I was frustrated that the school recognized the danger and actively chose not to close the school for the safety of their students,” Hartpence said.

Hartpence was not alone in feeling that way. Many students called for the campus to be closed due to weather warnings.

“The email said to utilize Zoom, so I don’t know why some professors didn’t do so instead of canceling,” Hartpence said. “Most of us had to take Zoom classes during Covid, it would have been preferable to losing feeling in my pinkies and getting icicles on my eyelashes.”

“I feel classes shouldn’t have been kept because it can be hazardous to some people’s health,” said Isaiah Lafayette, a student studying exercise physiology.

As a student from Jamaica, Lafayette understood firsthand the severity of this weather for individuals not from Idaho.

Lawrence commented that even while being from West Idaho, Rexburg gets far more frigid than his hometown.

BYU-Idaho recognized the concerns and needs of its diverse student body. The school was aware that there were students whose vehicles could not operate, or did not have the means to prepare for these drops in temperature.

Flexibility was offered through hosting class over Zoom, or if the instructor felt so inclined, canceled entirely. However, the Winter semester is only three months long. In order to cover all the necessary material to ensure student success, many courses seldom can afford to miss a day of vital in-person instruction.

To accommodate instructors who needed to teach in order to cover their semester material, BYU-Idaho remained open. The school stressed that flexibility and understanding is offered to students who could not make it to campus.

As the weather continues to stay in the negatives, remember to evaluate your clothing and means of travel. Make sure that there is no skin exposed to the wind. Ask to carpool with individuals who have working vehicles. Coordinate with instructors to cover any material you may miss. While education is important and integral, the safety of students and faculty will always be BYU-Idaho’s priority.

One hindrance with the cancellation was that students would brave the cold to arrive on campus, only to have the class canceled a minute before they arrived.

Abish Cheng, a student studying communication from Hong Kong, was surprised that classes were not uniform across the board.

“I usually have two classes on Monday, but one of my classes got canceled and I decided to skip the other,” Cheng said. “Despite the dangerous weather conditions, they did not cancel (all) classes.”

BYU-Idaho emailed an official notice to students Monday night, in light of Tuesday’s similar temperatures. According to the email, it said, “Please take seriously the need to dress warmly and stay inside as much as possible. We thank faculty for their flexibility and encourage everyone to continue with precaution and wisdom.”