Winter conditions put students at risk

The University should have canceled class due to dangerous driving conditions.
March 03, 2014

On Feb. 21, Minnesotans woke up to one of this winter’s worst snowstorms. Many people, including myself, were unable to get their cars out of their driveways, and those fortunate enough to get on the road faced unplowed, unsafe streets.

One would think that schools like the University of Minnesota would cancel class if thousands of students would face dangerous conditions in order to reach campus. After all, the University canceled class for one full day and one partial day in January due to low temperatures. Unfortunately, this was not the case during the Feb. 21 blizzard.

University leadership’s decision to keep the school open was irresponsible. There are thousands of students who, despite the weather, will drive to class so that they will not miss crucial lectures or exams. One should not have to push their car up Interstate 94 in order to attend class.

One may argue the University administrators did not force students to attend class, and many of the professors were compassionate enough to either cancel class or to delay exams. Although I applaud the professors who do take student safety into consideration, it sends a poor message to those who drive to class every day. When the University openly declares that it will not cancel class, it is also claiming that the weather is no excuse to be tardy.

Moreover, when professors make the decision to cancel class, a student could still have to come to campus for other classes, or even a job. For example, if a student has three classes and if two of their instructors decide to cancel class, the University still expects the student to drive to class. If they fail to come to class, the student is giving up a day to go on vacation, rest when they’re sick or otherwise skip class. A campus-wide class cancellation would have solved  this dilemma.

Also, the University’s decision to keep the campus open does not reflect metro-wide safety concerns. The Minnesota Department of Transportation declared that residents should limit their travel throughout the Twin Cities. The University should have considered MnDOT’s concerns. A share of the 685 metro crashes, 2,000 spin-outs and 809 stalled vehicles reported during the storm likely involved college students who were not going to allow for bad weather to impede their education.

The storm also affected more than motorists. My Facebook news feed was buzzing with fellow students who lived on or near campus complaining about delayed buses, dangerous biking conditions and icy sidewalks.

Ultimately, the University should craft decisions that are made for the best interests of its students, staff and faculty. When the University decided to keep campus open despite the terrible conditions, it did not consider the best interests of the thousands of people who need to traverse the elements to attend class or work.

The University previously demonstrated that it can cancel school in order to protect students. University administrators should continue their openness in canceling functions whenever our state’s infamous climate poses a risk to student lives on the way to class. 

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