Thoughts on a Snow Day

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside the fact that the amount of snow that we received overnight definitely did not live up to the excessive hype of [insert clever nickname for the snowstorm].  I agree: school should not be cancelled for 6″ of snow in the upper Midwest.  The upper Midwest should be prepared to handle 6″ of snow.

What I take issue with, however, is the University’s rationale for NOT canceling classes for inclement weather.  To wit: “We basically never cancel classes because we’re a residential school,” [University spokeswoman Kelly] Cunningham said. “People can get here.”

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?  In 2010, there were 58,089 enrolled students and 40,712 staff members (including grad students employed by the University).  11,000 students, or 27% of the student body, live in campus housing.  Another 8% live in Greek houses or cooperative housing.  By those numbers, 35% of the student body lives on or immediately adjacent to campus.  The remaining 37,757 students – 65% of the student body – lives off campus.

So if 37,757 students and 40,712 faculty and staff members live off campus, then who are the “residential” “people” who “can get here”?  20% of the campus population.

What about the rest of us? The 41% of the campus population who are employed by the University must “make a reasonable effort to report to work as scheduled, using good judgement about the risk of travel”, to quote an email I received yesterday. If you’re unable to get to campus, you can take a vacation day, paid time off, or unpaid time off, depending on where and for whom you work.

The unspoken message here is that the University is far more concerned with the happiness and safety of those who live on campus – again, 20% of the population – than that of the 78,470 individuals who commute for work, school, or both.  Those of us in that second camp can obviously afford to absorb a day of pay if we choose comfort and safety over driving to work or taking the bus in bad weather.  And I think that’s ridiculous.

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0 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Snow Day

  1. Do you think this is better or worse than UIUC canceling classes but not officially closing offices?

    How about the fact that staff in the units that did close are required to use benefits to be absent even though they were assigned to be absent? I can appreciate a policy that says you make the call more than we made the call for you and now you have to use benefits?

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  2. I agree, that’s ridiculous. I’ve been hearing similar stories from my academic friends all over the place, too–Boston, New Haven, Minnesota, etc. University students and employees are due the same safety considerations in bad weather as anybody else! Geez.

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  3. When I used to live in the Midwest (IN in my case), we got that same rationale from the schools too. More recently, here in TX (where even a dusting of snow unleashes Snowpocalypse), when weather did turn bad enough, evening classes (those starting at 5p) were cancelled, but get this: the library had to stay open ’til at least 10pm. Rationale? We (campus admin) was showing concern over those from out of town who had to drive in the bad weather. (The assumption being if you were already here, you were fine).

    Best, and keep on blogging.

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