Too cool for school

The University’s aversion to snow closures isn’t worth the risk

By Maroon Editorial Board

If the weathermen and Facebook statuses are to be believed, right now a blizzard should be hitting the U of C campus, bringing with it as much as 18 inches of snow. In spite of icy sidewalks and burgeoning snow drifts, we students will continue to trudge around campus, unless a particularly kind professor (or rather, one finding it impossible to drive into Hyde Park from the suburbs) cancels his or her class, bestowing on us at least a partial, unofficial snow day.

If you were expecting an official, University-wide snow day, it’s probable that you’re from the South or some other place with a warm climate, and you’re still adjusting to the concept of “snow” in the first place. In fact, the entire city of Chicago has an illustrious history of not stopping business as usual for such a weak reason as some snowfall. The public school system hasn’t had a snow day since 1999, when conditions got so severe that Lake Shore Drive shut down for the first time ever. Even then, the University did not close.

While the University does have a procedure for canceling classes and closing administrative offices due to severe weather, it has not been carried out in recent memory. And if you’re wondering how likely the University is to pull out the snow closure procedures in the near future, just know that they’re filed in the same section of the U of C’s Emergency Management Plan as the procedures for handling a flu pandemic and for turning the ground floor of Henry Crown into a “temporary morgue.”

It fits in with the rigor of a U of C education that we essentially don’t have snow days—but it also fits our often-mocked lack of practicality. Blizzards don’t need to get as bad as the infamous Chicago Blizzard of 1967 to create hazardous situations for students and staff.

Often enough, there are situations that call for a more unified, University response than teachers canceling class to avoid dealing with the snow or in recognition of the fact that students won’t come to class anyway. Deep snow and icy conditions can slow or shut down bus travel around the neighborhood, and walking across streets in whiteout conditions is a dicey proposition.

Beyond the borders of Hyde Park, there are a few students and many more instructors and support staff who have to drive to campus as long as classes remain in session. While students might be split on the pros and cons of closing school for one day, it would be the height of selfishness to demand that these people brave a foot of snow and dangerous road conditions so that we aren’t inconvenienced. Ultimately, a snow closure isn’t about the safety of people who live on Drexel or Ellis; it’s about the people who have to come from Pilsen, Edgewater, and Oak Park.

This is all to say that recognizing Chicago weather can be dangerous isn’t an admission of defeat for administrators. An official, school-wide snow day encourages students, faculty, and staff from throughout the Chicagoland area to stay home and stay safe, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.