Southern’s weeklong closure unprecedented, say officials

The University Pond took on an almost magical quality last week after a history-making ice storm swept through southwest Missouri. Though the scenes were beautiful, much of Southerns service area suffered damage.

The University Pond took on an almost magical quality last week after a history-making ice storm swept through southwest Missouri. Though the scenes were beautiful, much of Southern’s service area suffered damage.

After a week of cancellations, Missouri Southern is hoping to get back on track today.

“We’re anxious to get back (today) unless something unusual happens,” said Rod Surber, director of public information.

The unusual certainly happened last week when a winter storm brought freezing rain and sleet into Joplin Jan. 12 and continued for three days. The University closed the campus and continuing low temperatures eventually shut the doors for the rest of the week, as well.

The return to normalcy will be not only require an adjustment for students, but faculty as well. Dr. Julio León, university president, is optimistic the return will be a smooth one.

“It’s early enough in the semester it shouldn’t be too hard,” he said.

However, Dr. Conrad Gubera, professor of sociology, who has been with Southern since 1967, said the return from this “historical” layoff will be rough on him and his colleagues.

“It’s going to throw things off,” he said. “In the history of Missouri Southern, this has never happened. Never.

“Students always say they never live through anything historic, well here it is.”

When faculty return to Southern, the learning schedules for students will have to be altered. Val Christansen, associate professor of art, said a week of cancellations have put a crimp in his plans.

“I’ve had to rethink my expectations of the students,” he said. “I’ve seen a few ice storms, but this one is the worst because the temperatures have remained so low.”

The main roads are clear, but officials consider University parking lots and sidewalks still hazardous with ice. Surber said the “nasty and very dangerous” parking lots make it impossible for students and faculty to come to campus. Classes have never cancelled more than two consecutive days in Surber’s 16 years at Southern.

“It’s bound to happen once in lifetime,” he said.

Dr. Elizabeth Deffenbaugh, member of the Board of Governors, said her home’s electricity returned during the late morning of Jan. 19 and it wasn’t a moment too soon.

“I’m not as good a pioneer as I thought I was, but we got by,” she said.

The inclement weather conditions have reminded some faculty members of past winter complications. Bernie Johnson, professor of marketing, has worked at Southern for 33 years and said Joplin hasn’t seen a winter like this since 1987. And even then it wasn’t nearly this bad.

“I don’t ever remember getting three days off, let alone a whole week,” he said.

Besides a hindrance on education schedules, the weather has allowed some leisure time. Gubera said he’s had fun even though he had no electricity Jan. 14 through Jan. 17.

“I’ve been reacquainted with the fireplace,” he said. “I found the biggest tree in the yard.

“It’s a good time to read and reflect. Winter makes you think deeper about where you are in your life.”

The breakfast scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 15, was postponed until today, and the guest speaker, writer and scholar Bakari Kitwana, will be presenting next month.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures for this week are expected to remain near the freezing mark with a chance of precipitation today and Wednesday.

Skies are expected to remain partly cloudy until Thursday.