I write this as I spend my afternoon shuffling between lectures, the incoming snow clouding my vision and my feet nervous of the icy surface below the white fluff.
Not exactly the weather I was hoping for in mid-March. I’ve been braving my fair share of Canadian winter the past few months, and the couple of days of sunshine really get my hopes up, only to crash with freezing winds and/or snow the next day.
So with Winter Storm Stella, the last thing I planned to do the day after it began its downpour was to still have class. In fact, every school and daycare in the area of Lennoxville closed last Wednesday. Except my college. In both of my classes, only a quarter to a third of students managed to make it. The snow plows were busy all night, I maybe had four solid hours of sleep. If today was supposed to be a productive one, the school has another thing coming.
I’m used to not having snow days when we really need them as a safety precaution. My hometown closed school maybe twice my entire thirteen years in the district. My home campus only canceled classes maybe once, but only in the evening when I had already half-slipped five times during the day.
College administrations seem to not know when to draw the line and make an executive decision on winter weather. If a significant portion of the student body and staff cannot and will not attend classes, it’s about as productive as having no class at all. I would think it causes more problems to have a couple of kids on pace, a majority not so much, and then having to either review or leave the rest in the dust.
We can’t control the weather. We also can’t force people to face possibly dangerous roads and zero visibility just so the college can tote about not having any days canceled. Because yes, it gets schedules behind, but if we’re adapting it anyways to fit with a select few individuals who maybe live on campus or happen to be in the building to attend class, then the schedule is still behind. It proves nothing but that risking people’s well-being is less of a priority. And that isn’t a mentality to have.
When you come from the Midwest or Canada, you know winter. You have a pretty high tolerance for frosted-over windshields and shoveling. If you go any further south, chances are a little drizzle will close everything down. We each have different ideas of what constitutes “too much.” But there’s a limit and a line we need to draw, a uniform standard for different geographical regions to follow that collectively says yes or no.
If we look at this situation, where schools and daycares are closed but a university is not, you have many parents and children worried about where to be and how to care for young ones while going to work or class. We’re adding stress onto an already stressful situation. And then if we end up opting out of leaving altogether, there’s a guilt knowing that you might be missing something, that you could make it work somehow.
In my hometown, for the rare occasions we did have the day off, the next day had much better weather than the evening everything was called off, when the situation was actually bad. This poor delay in responding ends up looking silly from all angles. If the forecast is coming and imminent, do something proactive.
I’m sure it’s not an easy call for administrators to make, and I wouldn’t know that pressure. I’m simply speaking as someone who has faced far too many days either as a passenger of car going at least ten mph below the speed limit, seeing many cars swerved into the ditch, and as a student stressed about walking across campus in time only to find a classroom half empty.
We aren’t all going to agree on the best way to handle a situation like this. We hope winter storms like Stella don’t come every year. However, we must plan and act accordingly, keeping in mind safety and practicality for all, a plan that should be universal for a particular district or area, so the last thing we have to worry about is trying to be in two places at once. Because when everyone is focused and concerned about everything other than the class at hand, productivity is a lost cause.
Driving or walking or doing anything during a dangerous weather condition doesn’t somehow make you braver or better than the one who chose to sit back and wait it out. We’re all reacting as we best see fit, and policies and decisions should respect that.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie