Queen’s inclement weather policy risks leaving students out in the cold

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As the winter semester approaches, it’s important to ensure universities consider student safety in situations where inclement weather makes it difficult to get to class.
 
University of Toronto's (U of T) St. George Campus, recently announced weather policy addresses student concerns about the effectiveness of U of T winter weather cancellations, from timely notifications to consideration of road closures and public transportation status in the community.
 
Queen’s own Inclement Weather Procedure shares many of the same practices and procedures, and pledges that “[a]ll efforts will be made” to inform students of the status of university and class operations cancelled due to weather by 6:30 a.m. for morning classes or 3:00 p.m. for evening and night classes.
 
However, posting the information online at The Queen’s Gazette or on the school’s website doesn’t do enough to reach students before they head to campus in poor weather conditions oblivious of cancellations.
 
Despite the proximity of most off-campus student housing to the university, Queen’s students still struggle with getting to campus in snowy, freezing weather. While the school may act quickly to clear snow and put down salt on campus, the trek to class is made both difficult and hazardous by unshovelled sidewalks and icy roads.
 
Students relying on buses are likely to experience delays and possible cancellations, and students driving or commuting from further distances may not be able to make it to class at all.
 
Sending cancellation information to all students’ emails and better promoting the news on social media would help to ensure that when class is cancelled due to the weather, students are aware they don’t have to try to make it to campus. 
 
Class cancellations aren’t just frustrating for professors whose lesson plans are disrupted. After all, students invest a great deal of time and money into their education, and don’t want to miss out on their learning because of poor weather.
 
When class isn’t cancelled but weather is bad, students may feel pressured to risk their safety to attend classes and stay updated on course content. While the University’s hesitation to cancel class can be understandable, it’s more important that students and staff are kept off the roads in dangerous conditions.
 
Having empathetic contingency measures, such as posted video lectures or live online discussion, could help mitigate the loss of class time when a cancellation occurs. Another inclusive solution would be to provide the option of alternative assignment opportunities for students unable to make it to campus in winter weather.
 
While there’s nothing broken about Queen’s current Inclement Weather Procedure, it could still be better—particularly given this year’s premature winter. 
 
Students shouldn’t be confronted by a choice between education and safety. 
 
 

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