Thunderstorms, snowstorms and tornadoes have raged through college campuses across the country this month as millions of students returned to school. Even campuses covered in snow or sleet remained open for classes, leaving students with a tough decision: Brave the storm and get to class, or stay home and risk a lower grade?
A winter storm recently delayed flights in the Midwest and the East Coast, and on Tuesday night, tornadoes threatened Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi. Parts of the Southeast were even hit with a snowstorm Jan. 18, as many students traveled back to campus.
Most colleges avoid canceling classes due to weather conditions unless absolutely necessary. However, Ali Fishman, a junior at the University of Miami, says classes should be canceled more frequently.
“I feel like if there’s a severe thunder storm, or excessive rain, classes should be canceled,” Fishman said. “I don’t think it should just be instances of tropical storms or hurricanes.”
“At the beginning of the school year in August, they canceled class for two days because of Hurricane Irene, but sometimes it’s not a classified thing like a hurricane, sometimes it’s just rain that doesn’t stop for 72 hours,” Fishman said. She recalled a day during her freshman year when classes were still held while the rain was so intense that it blew tables and chairs into canals and flooded the intramural field.
While Fishman faces tropical storms, Laura Jákli, a junior at Cornell University, deals with wintry extremes.
“In the midst of blizzards and snowstorms, roads and walkways simply cannot be cleared in time, making even a 10 minute walk to class a struggle, and furthermore dangerous,” Jákli said. “I feel that class should be canceled in any instance where walkways cannot be cleared of snow or ice in a manner that allows for safe walking conditions.”
For Kayla Rosenberg, a junior at Columbia College Chicago, an urban campus makes winter weather even more challenging.
“You have to factor in train and bus delays, or if you’re walking, the possibility of slipping on ice and bruising the entirety of your backside,” Rosenberg said. “I think classes should be canceled when there is a blizzard warning that closes down several train lines or makes it impossible for the majority of the students living off campus to make it to any of the downtown buildings.”
Now, most students don’t have to look out their window to see if class is canceled. Many schools send out email alerts, and some even send out text alerts. However, even if classes aren’t canceled, a few tips can make getting around campus easier and safer.
For students who live in tropical environments, Fishman suggests always carrying an umbrella. She keeps one in her car, at home and where she works. If she knows there will be a storm, she leaves for campus early and stays on campus all day.
In snowy or icy conditions, Jákli walks along main roads as much as possible, holds on to the railings and makes sure she has enough time to slowly, and safely, get to class.
Rosenberg suggests stockpiling absences so that missing class doesn’t impact your grade. She also thinks students should always prepare for the worst.
“Just in case you get stranded waiting for a bus while the snow is beating you down, make sure you have a spare pair of hand warmers in your jacket pocket and an alternate method of attending,” she said. “Even if it means calling a cab.”
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