Snowstorm Leads To Cancelled Classes


On Monday, January 24, while Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino asked businesses to reduce work forces and gave most city employees the day off, Harvard Law School held its Winter Exams despite the more than 20 inches of snow from the Blizzard 2005. However, Harvard did cancel the first day of classes for 1L’s returning from winter vacation.

“1Ls exams finished January 12, so many of them were away from Boston and unable to get back,” explained Todd Rakoff, Vice Dean for Academic Programming, of the disparate treatment. “By contrast, 2Ls/3Ls were just finishing up winter semester, and many of them were expecting to get away after taking their final.”

The last time Harvard Law cancelled classes for an entire day was on September 11th, 2001 and the last time school was cancelled for weather-related reasons was sometime in the 1990s, according to Rakoff. Morning classes were cancelled during a blizzard in 2003, but resumed in the afternoon as conditions became less severe.

“Basically, as a school for adults we close for weather very rarely,” asserted Rakoff. “But we do have to worry about those students, as well as staff and faculty, who live neither on campus nor close by in Cambridge. If public transportation was not going to be back in business by Monday, we might well have had to cancel all activities.”

However, since public transportation was running, Harvard decided to hold the exams, explaining that it was better for the students than rescheduling the exams during vacation.

“As it is, we thought most 2Ls/3Ls would want to go ahead with the planned exams, and that we would be able to make the necessary accommodations for those who were unavoidably late or absent,” Rakoff stated.

Accommodations were made for students who could not get into school because of the weather, although the registrar staff was unavailable for comment as to the precise nature of these accommodations. Most students appeared satisfied with the decision and were able to take their exams.

“I had difficulty getting to campus and getting home,” commented Marc Gorayeb, 3L who had a take-home exam on Monday. “It cut out forty minutes of the exam, which in the scheme of things, didn’t matter so much. The roads were difficult to negotiate by foot, but public transportation was running.”

Indeed, even those students who did not live on campus preferred having the exam on its scheduled date rather than having it interfere with vacation.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” said Heather Ford, 2L. “It would have been a much bigger deal to cancel my plans for intercession to make it up.”

“It was the lesser of two evils,” said Gorayeb. “People were ready to just take off for vacation on Tuesday. If you put it to a vote, I’d imagine most people would want to get it over with because of the difficulty of rescheduling a make-up.”

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