A look into why it’s not just a matter of an extra day off
It’s that time of the year. Big Atlantic storms start to become a problem; the ones that leave you with giant piles of snow and no power. Usually, when they hit, campus either closes or delays opening for the safety of students and to give Facilities Management time to clear the snow. But should they maybe consider delaying opening campus or calling snow days more often this year?
According to StFX’s Unscheduled Closure or Cancellation of Classes Policy, the university should close when “there is a situation which makes it difficult or dangerous for faculty, staff, or students to…remain at or travel to the University.” The final decision to close or partially close campus is the responsibility of the President, after considering all the relevant determining factors to the decision.
Some of the determining factors involved in the decision to close or delay opening campus are weather conditions, road conditions, ability to access and use campus safely, as well as ability to maintain paths or roadways in a safe condition. However, the university doesn’t seem to consider to what extent not properly dealing with some of those determining factors is causing problems for students this year.
For example, take considering road conditions, given not everyone lives on campus. Many students and professors have to drive substantial distances to class, some even coming in from Halifax. It becomes a balance between doing your job as a student or professor versus deciding that risking your personal safety isn’t worth it. It is usually the students with longer commutes missing from class after snow days because of continuing poor road conditions and they shouldn’t be punished for prioritizing their safety.
There is also the fact that snow clearing on campus isn’t adequate for some students. Just last week, a student in one of my classes was unable to make it to class because Facilities Management had not cleared a wheelchair ramp but had cleared the rest of the sidewalks around the entrance to the building. While there should be priorities in which paths are cleared first on campus, it is entirely unjust to neglect an access ramp while removing all the other snow around it and deny students who require different degrees of accessibility a chance to learn.
Accessibility isn’t only an issue when it comes to things like access ramps on campus. With all the construction currently underway and the multitude of closed parking lots or areas, it leaves few roads and paths available to cross campus. So, when half of the remaining paths have yet to be cleared or salted when 8:15 classes roll around, is campus really accessible to navigable for both pedestrians and vehicles?
This is not to say that the university is neglecting the safety and navigability of campus entirely. The staff who come out to shovel and remove snow right after winter storms are part of the reason that campus gets back on its feet so quickly. Not to mention the custodians, staff at meal hall and many others that keep essential services open when there are bad weather conditions outside. They do work hard to do as best as they can to make campus safe and accessible to those on and off campus.
So, the question remains, should StFX be delaying opening or calling snow days more since not all the determining factors like accessibility or road conditions are being dealt with as they should? To that, I say yes, or at least recognize the problems that are arising from not doing so adequately and come up with solutions to address them. After all, we are all here to benefit from an education, in a place where we are not worried about that being denied or our personal safety because we can’t get around campus after a snowstorm.