Presidential day of remembrance upends finals prep


Easton Thompson

Wu looks to the flag during the national anthem at WSU’s game against Missouri State on Nov. 10, 2018 in Koch arena.

With finals week looming, Wichita State will join Kansas government offices in closing Wednesday to honor the late President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday. The cancellation complicates end-of-the-semester schedules in many classes where final projects and presentations were due Wednesday.

Despite Gov. Colyer’s executive order to close state agencies, both the University of Kansas and Kansas State will remain open Wednesday as students prepare for finals.

With WSU President John Bardo currently hospitalized, Provost Rick Muma made the call to cancel classes.

“I recognize this will be a hardship for some students and instructors,” Muma wrote in the announcement Monday. “Faculty members with classes scheduled Wednesday should contact students to make it clear what needs to be done by students to complete their work for the semester.”

Days off are a luxury for many students, but freshman health sciences major Alexandria Dunham said the cancellation could not have come at a worse time. Her anatomy class had a study session scheduled for Wednesday.

“We had a study session that we could only go to on Wednesday and school decided to cancel and now we can’t go to that,” Dunham said.

With her anatomy test set for Thursday, Dunham said she’s worried a missed study session could hurt her final grade.

“It’s going to have a great impact on the grade that I get for this class, which is phenomenal,” Dunham said. “It lowkey makes me feel like they just want me to spend more money to retake the class.”

John Willome, a communications graduate teaching assistant, said his students have been working hard to finish projects and wrap class up before finals week. That’s no longer an option.

“It means I have to bring in both of my classes next week — finals week — even though everything was supposed to be due this week,” Willome said.

“It’s frustrating for me because like, I have stuff for my classes due next week, so it would have been nice to finish with teaching this week and then not have to worry about that.”

Vice President for Strategic Communications Lou Heldman acknowledged the inconvenience to students and instructors Tuesday, but said WSU’s decision to close follows precedent from previous presidential deaths.

“We know it’s a really important day, but we had the governor’s order and we had the precedent from the two presidents that died most recently,” Heldman said.

Ronald Reagan died in June 2004 and Gerald Ford died in December 2006 — over summer and winter break, respectively. WSU does not close for Presidents’ Day.

“It’s never the right decision for everybody,” Heldman said.

Freshman nursing major Sydney Dixon, who had two finals review days scheduled for Wednesday, said she was frustrated last week when WSU only cancelled morning classes the Monday after fall break due to snow and icy conditions.

“I fell and had bruises all up my leg twice on the way to sociology whenever they refused to cancel school last week,” Dixon said. “They wouldn’t cancel but then they cancel the worst possible day.

“I understand that they want to respect [Bush] and have the day of mourning and like, cancel school, but they should make an exception because it’s the week before finals.”

Dixon said WSU should close Friday — Dead Day  — when there are already no classes.

“We don’t have classes on Friday. Close it then,” Dixon said.

President Bush left office in January 1993. Nobody under the age of 25 was alive during his presidency.

“Not a lot of students have been adults while Bush was president,” said Neal Allen, political science department head.

Willome said he knows very little about the former president.

“I do know some, but not enough to mourn his death,” Willome said.

Dunham said she has no interest in honoring Bush Wednesday.

“This man did not affect me at all,” Dunham said. “I was not alive for his presidency. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

She said she’ll spend the day studying.

“I’m working, I’m studying, I’m doing everything that I should have been doing in class out of class,” Dunham said.

Allen said Bush will be remembered as a serviceman. Before becoming president, Bush served as a U.S. congressman, CIA director, and vice president.

“[Bush] clearly was someone who spent most of his life in some public service or another,” Allen said.

He said Bush conducted himself with an air of civility that’s unfamiliar in today’s politics.

“If you want to think about his particular legacy, it’s hard not to contrast it to the current president,” Allen said.

Allen said he understands the frustration students and instructors have over cancelling classes to honor the former president.

“He certainly picked an inconvenient time for our schedule to die,” Allen said.

“The decision to close state agencies is clearly made by politicians who believe that the work of government and the work of elected officials is more important than a lot of citizens think it is.”